Why Have Class’ Audience Ratings Suffered?

It’s a shame to end Class Week on a rather negative note, but with the show resigned solely to online (for now…), it’s interesting to see its viewing figures. These haven’t actually been revealed, but we can at least infer them from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board’s (BARB) TV Player Report, which takes into account the weeks in which For Tonight We Might Die and The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo were available from.

Sadly, the study only includes the Top 50 on-demand shows, screened through services like BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub – and Class was not among them.

This means that those first two episodes were watched by fewer than 185,688 viewers each. That might mean they were seen by 185,687 people, or equally, that the figures are considerably less.

In fact, the only BBC Three show from the four-week period ending 13th November 2016 was Sex, Drugs & Murder: Life in the Red Light Zone, with 247,000 viewers. The most-watched on-demand programme was Planet Earth II: Islands, watched by some 576,000 viewers.

What does this tell us about Class – and should we be worried, especially considering the finale, The Lost left quite a few dangling plot threads?

Class - Ep8

The relative success of Sex, Drugs & Murder: Life in the Red Light Zone at least tells us that BBC Three is suffering altogether. It’s not just Class. It’s everything else on the online-only channel right now. We often hear that Doctor Who‘s ratings are affected because so many watch online; could it be that Class is a victim of being solely available on-demand right now? People watch Doctor Who online, partly because they know about it through its main BBC1 screenings – Class, meanwhile, has no reminders in the TV guide magazines. You either know about it or you don’t, whereas everyone knows about Doctor Who (even those crazy enough not to like it!).

Could the answer lie in its publicity then? How many people outside of the hardcore fandom know about this Doctor Who spin-off? How many even knew Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor was in the first episode? While there were occasional trailers on the BBC, Class was generally left for people to discover serendipitously. It’s a concern as Class was a considerable tent-pole for BBC Three’s relatively-new status as online-only. We also have to wonder how many folk know how to access it: sure, if you’ve Sky or are familiar with iPlayer, you’ll know how to watch, but the show likely lost a fair audience due to not being au-fait with on-demand programming.

As regular DWC contributor (and Class fan), James Baldock pointed out to me, there must also be a number of potential viewers who just aren’t rushing to see it: after all, Class is available for a whole year. Unless you’re scared of spoilers – and let’s face it, the press hasn’t covered it in any detail, certainly not leaking details of the surprise enemies in The Lost – there’s no urgency. It will be interesting to see how well the Class DVD and Blu-ray (out next month) is received.

Class - Ep1

But we don’t have to send Class Week on a negative note. Viewing figures right now aren’t great, but it’s not the end. The spin-off is still to screen on BBC America (bigger audiences abroad would bode well for potentially BBC Worldwide, and certainly for a second series), and it’s still to air on BBC1.

That’s right: it will be given a spotlight on the corporation’s main channel, though we’ve no set date for it. Early 2017 seems likely, same with BBC America. When that happens, publicity might go up a notch, and hopefully, the few bits of merchandise released – that’s the three excellent books, Joyride, The Stone House, and What She Does Next Will Astound You – will shift in greater quantities.

Why has Class suffered in the ratings? It’s likely that it’s down to lots of little reasons, all adding up to a large vacuum in figures.

Nonetheless, let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Class Series 2…