Ratings for the new Doctor Who spin-off Class have been disappointing. This should not be a surprise to anyone, considering the way that it was released.
Suppose, for a moment, that one was creating a new television show. Ideally, one would want to make the show as visible as possible, especially if it is a spin-off of an already popular program. Prime time slots, network coverage, and advertisements trumpeting the coming episodes would be expected.
Well, that has not been the case with the Doctor Who spin-off Class. It has seen “disappointing” ratings, not even making the top fifty on-demand programs for its first four weeks. Instead of initially being broadcast on television, the episodes were released on BBC Three, a website. Supposedly, the plan is for them to be aired on BBC One at some point soon. They were also shown in Canada and Australia.
Somehow, a Doctor Who spin-off being made available to a limited audience and then failing to reach its ratings projections is seen as a surprise. Perhaps the expectation was that being a part of the Doctor Who brand would be enough to overcome that problem, and lead to online ratings gold. Furthermore, the quality of Class is certainly not the issue, having received mostly positive reviews.
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This is where the axiom of best laid plans would come in, but that would be far too much of a credit to the strategy given for Class. Considering that Doctor Who is a worldwide phenomenon, making it so that people everywhere cannot immediately watch one of its spin-offs is a strange decision. Likewise, waiting until sometime in the spring to air these episodes on BBC America will hurt any hype surrounding the show going forward. It likely also hurt the show in the markets in which it was already released. Online buzz matters, regardless of location.
Class has a chance to be a valuable part of the Whoniverse. Indeed, the BBC appears to be banking on its success, with three novels set to come out. Add in a cliffhanger ending to the Series One finale, and there seem to be big plans for the program.
However, those plans will not come to fruition if Class continues to be so very restricted. To achieve the goals that they have for this show, and to make it a visible part of the Whoniverse, it needs to be more accessible. That includes making it available to be viewed worldwide.