Debunking BBC Worldwide’s Promise of “More Than 11 Hours of New Content”

BBC Worldwide issued a brand and licensing update for Doctor Who in the latest edition of Toyworld Magazine, and while it’s full of corporate spiel, some have read  into the claim that there will be “More than 11 hours of new content in Autumn 2018”. Could this be confirmation that there will be a Christmas special this year? Or further, yet-to-be-revealed mini-episodes similar to the “prequels” and long-forgotten “TARDISodes” of yesteryear?

Sadly, it’s best not to get too excited for this “11 hours of new content” promise.

So far, it’s been announced that Series 11 will consist of 10 episodes in total, including an hour-long season opener and 9 subsequent 50-minute episodes. That’s around 8 hours, 30 minutes of content. Even if we add in an hour-long Christmas special – which hasn’t actually been mentioned at all just yet, so we don’t know whether this will go ahead or if it’s a casualty of the change of showrunner – that’s 9 hours and 30 minutes accounted for. So where’s the additional hour-and-a-half mentioned in the licensing advertisement?

However, this comes from a promotional image that boasts “New Doctor, Companions and Adventures”; “More than 11 hours of new content in Autumn 2018”; and “New Evergreen Styleguide and Licensing programme” – all intended for overseas territories. In trade-speak, as backed up by Starburst magazine’s J.R. Southall, this “new content” includes ad breaks. So no, this isn’t confirmation of extra content; merely, the chance for foreign channels to plug other shows and products. Sorry, everyone.

In fact, the 11 hours of content likely doesn’t include a potential Christmas special at all: after all, it says it’s “in Autumn 2018”, not “from” the Autumn. That statement likely wouldn’t take a winter special into account.

Elsewhere, if we turn our gaze to BBC Worldwide’s Brand Update, it’s riddled with nonsense jargon, and sadly, doesn’t tell us much. Nevertheless, it pleasingly sells the franchise as an internationally-popular one that should continue to expand. It enthuses:

“2018 marks a true regeneration for the franchise, with a five year evergreen strategy built around a commitment to a solid content pipeline, delivered through platforms relevant to the BBC’s audiences.”

Now, we already know that Chris Chibnall has a five-year plan for Doctor Who, or at least that’s what he’s pitched to the BBC – enough to get the company excited enough to hire him as a replacement for Steven Moffat. The rest of that statement amounts to little. An “evergreen strategy” presumably means lots of conifers will be planted at Roath Lock Studios; a “solid content pipeline” (no toilet humour, please) is an allusion to the fact they’re bringing back Kroll; and “platforms relevant to the BBC’s audiences” means new episodes will be available on Laserdisc.

Not really. It means the BBC are trying stuff to keep the show fresh (i.e. new cast and crew), as it should be, hopes it’ll continue for a while yet, and will be screened on BBC1 and BBC America.

“The BBC will continue to work with world class partners, building an expansive digital and ancillary strategy and key annual marketing moments to create audience engagement.”

“World class partners” is an example of sucking up (which we’re not criticising; that’s basically the MO of licensing declarations); and “key annual marketing moments” could mean live events (similar to the Doctor Who Experience and Symphonic Spectacular). Alternatively, it might merely mean that a new series equals new marketing opportunities. “An expansive digital and ancillary strategy” at least gives us hope that the BBC intend to fully get behind any fresh directions for the programme.

Next comes an impressive boast:

“Doctor Who has a proven track-record in consumer products with over 4m Sonic Screwdrivers sold in the past decade, over 12m action figures sold since 2005, and over 18m DVDs sold globally.”

And you can’t argue with that. Those figures are fantastic. Who knew the various sonic screwdrivers would gain so much traction?

Similarly, it’s nice to hear this:

“Nearly 70 longstanding, global licensees are working on Doctor Who, including Character Options as master toy licensee, Penguin Random House, Winning Moves, Eaglemoss, Kokomo and Brand Alliance.”

This is without mentioned Lovarzi, Big Finish, AbbyShot, Hachette, Funko Pop, Warlord Games, and many, many more. We have to wonder, however, how these licensees have reacted to uncertainty behind the scenes, including a change of personnel, loss of brand manager, and various delays; 2016, in which we had one full episode of Doctor Who and that’s it, must’ve been a deeply concerning time, for instance.

So that was BBC Worldwide’s licensing update. A buzzword torment featuring few real facts. Still, you basically expect this sort of jargon from trade publications. Just make sure no one at the Plain English Campaign sees. We like to spare people unnecessary hernias if possible…