Steven Moffat points to Rugby World Cup popularity for ‘Doctor Who’ ratings slump

First episode of BBC show's ninth series fell by 2m viewers

Steven Moffat has pointed to the Rugby World Cup and a lack of a hook for new fans as being behind the dip in Doctor Who‘s ratings this year.

The ninth series of the BBC series was scheduled against a number of the rugby matches ITV screened during this year’s tournament, with Japan’s surprise victory over South Africa clashing with Doctor Who premiere, ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ on September 19. That episode drew an initial audience​ of 4.6m – down over 2m on the series 8 launch.

Speaking to the Radio Times about the slump, Moffat said he thinks rugby and a lack of a big event to advertise the series stood against them: “I don’t want to get on anyone’s case but that wasn’t our best-run launch,” Moffat said. “This year is not a new Doctor year, it’s not an anniversary, or a new companion year.

“We can just concentrate on making Doctor Who, which is quite nice in a way. But it’s dangerous when you don’t have that special extra bit to launch a show with.

“The way it always goes is our highest episode is the first one, but this is the first year we’ve gone up mid-season – after the rugby [World Cup] died down. Our ratings went up with episode five.”

Earlier this month (November) Moffat reassured Doctor Who fans that the series’ future is not in doubt.

The iconic sci-fi drama is now onto its ninth series since being revived by the BBC in 2005. In a recent interview, Moffat said that at least five more series are already being planned.

“It is definitely going to last five more years, I’ve seen the business plan. It’s not going anywhere,” he told Variety. “And I think we can go past that. It’s television’s own legend. It will just keep going.”

Peter Capaldi is confirmed to return as the Doctor for the 10th post-revival series next year.