broadcasting, television, viewing

Taking the lead: how Doctor Who and Matt Smith prove the potent ability of broadcast TV to amplify a message in the digital age

two established and respected TV programmes.  two significant cast changes.  and that's about where the similarities end.  just before Christmas Channel 4 introduced us to the new cast of Skins, and on Saturday the BBC introduced us to the man who'll play the Doctor post his tenth regeneration in about a years time.

both aim to achieve the same two objectives: one, mitigate against viewer decline when an established lead or leads leave; and two, capitalise on any potential positive PR that results from the casting of the new guy or guys on the block.

but the ways in which each programme went about achieving those aims couldn't have been more different.  the principles undying the BBC's approach to Doctor Who were uber traditional from a commissioning pov.  hold back information (only 6 people knew prior to the announcement in a DW Confidential special on Saturday night), and broadcast to maximum effect.

Skins on the other hand has maintained the approach that has served it so well hereto: establish communities, seed information to them, and allow / use the community to spread the message.  the two approaches could be summarised as:


is one right? …or at least more right than the other?  well no, each channel is communicating as is right for that programme brand and its audience.  but a comparison of the results of each – as measured on Google Insights for Search – does show a clear benefit, at least in one regard, of one model versus the other.


comparative searches for skins, new skins, doctor who, new doctor who and matt smith as reported on Google Insights for Search application

both Skins terms (light blue and red) stay very consistent, the announcement of the new cast didn't seem to generate any significant interest (as measured by number of Google searches) at the time of release.  compare that with the BBC's broadcast approach…  searches for 'Doctor Who' (yellow) and 'New Doctor Who' (green) increased 5.2 and 7.5-fold respectively between Friday  2nd and Saturday 3rd Jan, the day the announcement was broadcast.

the real winner of course in Matt Smith, searches (shown above in purple) for whom increased one hundred fold (the maximum on the Google index); interest that Mr Smith should probably get used to.

broadcast TV sometimes seems rather under siege.  the dual forces of digital switchover and the evolution of on-demand hardware (including the humble desktop) sometimes paint an incorrect picture of the decline of the power broadcast TV.  but the power to amplify a message remains as potent as ever.  as this blog has argued before, the ability to broadcast a message to millions of people (over six million for Matt Smith according to the Guardian) becomes more rather than less important in a digital world.  TV may be changing in many ways, but it's unique ability to excite and unite around new news remains as powerful as ever.


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