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Does Doctor Who make money?


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Old 06-07-2013, 13:16
Lii
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Does anyone actually know if Doctor Who really is a money maker for the BBC, and if so by how much? This claim is made so often, especially in criticising the reduced episode count, I'm wondering if it is actually an established fact or just something that's repeated on the belief that it must be true.

If it is true, how long does it take a new episode to cover its own costs. That would be from foreign TV rights, DVD and online sales.

Although the BBC publish accounts, they're only at the departmental level. We don't know how much individual dramas or even episodes cost, and there's even less visibility on BBC Worldwide.
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Old 06-07-2013, 13:32
mrprosser
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Probably by the bucketload, but the BBC don't provide figures....
However, if you consider the merchandise licenses (toy manufacturers wouldn't buy the licence if they weren't going to make anything) overseas broadcast rights, DVD's of new and old episodes, I'm sure it all adds up
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Old 06-07-2013, 13:42
zz9
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Difficult to say. Each episode costs just under a million to make, which has IIRC been stated in several official or semi official sources. It also ties in with the BBCs published programme tariffs where Drama 5 is 700k to 800k an hour and Drama 6 is 800k to 900k per hour.

This is very cheap compared to top US shows where two million dollars is what the network pays but that doesn't even cover the whole production cost.

Sales of DVDs, merchandising, overseas sales etc clearly bring in lots of money but with DVDs and toys there are costs of manufacturing and the retailers margin before the BBC gets its cut.

I think the BBC views airing it in the UK as its purpose, any profit later is a bonus. If it pays for itself then the BBC are effectively getting a prime time Saturday night show for free.

If it made a profit I'd assume they'd make more, and certainly keeping to a fixed number of episodes a year would help international sales. Nothing worse than "Well you can have half a dozen episodes this year and maybe another six next year..." uncertainty.
There was that rumour that it was down to bad management and that's why the producers left.
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Old 06-07-2013, 18:02
KNs47
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If it made a profit I'd assume they'd make more..........
Don't think it's as simple as that. The cost of making a series of Doctor Who will come out of the BBC1 Drama budget, where as any profit from selling DW as a brand, or overseas sales, willl go into BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial branch. The profits from this will ultimately go back into the BBC, but not what's allocated the Controller of BBC1.
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Old 06-07-2013, 18:10
bennythedip
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Cash cow.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:05
zz9
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Don't think it's as simple as that. The cost of making a series of Doctor Who will come out of the BBC1 Drama budget, where as any profit from selling DW as a brand, or overseas sales, willl go into BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial branch. The profits from this will ultimately go back into the BBC, but not what's allocated the Controller of BBC1.
BBCWW can and do co-fund BBC productions. If it was hugely profitable BBCWW would do a deal with BBC 1 where they'd fund part of the production in return for a bigger cut of the profit. BBC 1 would get 20 m worth of show for 13 m. They may already be doing this, but if it was a huge profit maker I'd assume they'd do more.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:14
Mulett
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I remember John Nathan-Turner complaining bitterly in the 1980s that all the money Doctor Who made in overseas sales (which more than covered its production costs) was never invested back into the show but went into the more general 'BBC Drama' budget.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:30
Bertypop
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I remember John Nathan-Turner complaining bitterly in the 1980s that all the money Doctor Who made in overseas sales (which more than covered its production costs) was never invested back into the show but went into the more general 'BBC Drama' budget.
That's exactly what the BBC should be doing with this money. The big stuff that brings in the money should be used to take a risk on new/experimental stuff that may not necessarily succeed.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:32
Jon Ross
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I remember John Nathan-Turner complaining bitterly in the 1980s that all the money Doctor Who made in overseas sales (which more than covered its production costs) was never invested back into the show but went into the more general 'BBC Drama' budget.
He was apparently especially pissed off at the amount of money the BBC invested into The Tripods, which was given a far bigger budget than Doctor Who and was then cancelled after two series.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:38
Mulett
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That's exactly what the BBC should be doing with this money. The big stuff that brings in the money should be used to take a risk on new/experimental stuff that may not necessarily succeed.
I don't completely disagree with what you're saying, but it was really galling for JNT that many of the criticisms from the senior BBC staff about Dr Who in the early 80s was about the quality of the special effects. They wanted Star Wars quality effects.

JNT tried to explain that special effects of that quality cost a lot more money than the BBC were giving him.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:41
Jon Ross
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That's exactly what the BBC should be doing with this money. The big stuff that brings in the money should be used to take a risk on new/experimental stuff that may not necessarily succeed.
Except that in the '80s Doctor Who needed some serious investment into it as it was falling badly behind, looking increasingly shoddy and being publicly criticised by the controller of the channel.

Jonathan Powell admitted on Trials and Tribulations that the BBC was not investing what needed to be invested in Doctor Who to improve its production values and it was in a vicious circle "because it wasn't successful". Yet, apparently, it was still selling well abroad, so figure that one out.
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:42
Mulett
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He was apparently especially pissed off at the amount of money the BBC invested into The Tripods, which was given a far bigger budget than Doctor Who and was then cancelled after two series.
They made a second season?????
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Old 06-07-2013, 20:43
Jon Ross
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They made a second season?????
They made and broadcast two series in 1984 and 1985. There was supposed to be a third but the show was cancelled after the second by you know who.
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Old 06-07-2013, 22:48
zz9
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That's exactly what the BBC should be doing with this money. The big stuff that brings in the money should be used to take a risk on new/experimental stuff that may not necessarily succeed.
I agree in general, that's what the BBC is there for, to make PSB content much of which would not be made by the commercial channels. But if they could invest an extra 10m into DW and get say 30m profit back then that would pay for itself and fund an extra 20m of PSB and/or risky content.

I think that even the revived DW show has not always got the financing it should have. They only went HD with 11 for example, which will reduce potential profit on Blu Ray and sales of repeats on HD channels, for example.
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Old 06-07-2013, 22:53
zz9
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I don't completely disagree with what you're saying, but it was really galling for JNT that many of the criticisms from the senior BBC staff about Dr Who in the early 80s was about the quality of the special effects. They wanted Star Wars quality effects.

JNT tried to explain that special effects of that quality cost a lot more money than the BBC were giving him.
You could argue it was a problem from day one. The reason the Tardis is a Police box is because they couldn't afford the special effect of the "glowing sphere" they originally thought of. Having the chameleon circuit "break down" and the Tardis stuck as a Police box saved money. It was purely a fantastic by product that it became the iconic image of the show. Same with Star Trek where the producers thought up the transporter because they couldn't afford to use the shuttle every episode.
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Old 06-07-2013, 23:30
Jon Ross
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You could argue it was a problem from day one. The reason the Tardis is a Police box is because they couldn't afford the special effect of the "glowing sphere" they originally thought of. Having the chameleon circuit "break down" and the Tardis stuck as a Police box saved money. It was purely a fantastic by product that it became the iconic image of the show.
It didn't matter so much back then. Star Wars was the game changer. What was it Grade said? "I'd seen Star Wars, I'd seen Close Encounters and ET, and then I had to watch this rubbish."
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Old 06-07-2013, 23:53
Mulett
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It didn't matter so much back then. Star Wars was the game changer. What was it Grade said? "I'd seen Star Wars, I'd seen Close Encounters and ET, and then I had to watch this rubbish."
Exactly!
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:08
grizzlyvamp
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They made and broadcast two series in 1984 and 1985. There was supposed to be a third but the show was cancelled after the second by you know who.
When did Voldemort get involved in it?


















(Oh come on some one had to say it )
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:39
Lii
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The JNT quotes are interesting, as there were similar ones from Moff last year. I think he said that not only does Who make money for the BBC, but that it will make money forever, emphasising what a good investment the show is.

What I was hoping in asking this question, is that some production insider might have leaked some real numbers out of such frustration with BBC management. Obviously that hasn't happened, and I also think there are a number of factors complicating any such calculation.

Amongst those, is that the commercial side is all handled by BBC Worldwide, which is an organisation which has received some criticism for poor management and high costs. There may be quite a diference between revenue forecasts, and the actual amount of money this department returns to BBC drama.

Just as one example of such expenditure, anyone remember the cinema trailer for Series 5, which apparently cost a bomb and raised the ire of those running the show at BBC Wales?

This thing - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDHjbKQ6H1s
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Old 07-07-2013, 02:08
rwebster
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010...rldwide-profit << This is probably the article you're looking for. Few years out of date, but it's on record as one of the four most profitable things the BBC does.

The article was also published mere months after the trailer was in cinemas, so I fear there's not much of a story, there. Voyage of the Damned also got a cinema trailer, three years before that, so I think cinema trailers are something the BBC are basically a-okay with. They'd certainly had plenty of time to put a stop to all that silver screen stuff if they thought it was going to be a problem.
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Old 07-07-2013, 02:35
Lii
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010...rldwide-profitThey'd certainly had plenty of time to put a stop to all that silver screen stuff if they thought it was going to be a problem.
I only cite the cinema trailer to illustrate the concern. Which is that profits returned are significantly lower than the headline figures.

The Guardian article (inadvertently) makes the point very well.

Headline - "earn more than 200m in revenue"

The article - "produced total revenues of 218m and profits of 44m".

That's 174m in costs to generate 44m in profit, which for a division whose primary function is licensing and sales is incredibly high.
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Old 07-07-2013, 11:27
zz9
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I only cite the cinema trailer to illustrate the concern. Which is that profits returned are significantly lower than the headline figures.

The Guardian article (inadvertently) makes the point very well.

Headline - "earn more than 200m in revenue"

The article - "produced total revenues of 218m and profits of 44m".

That's 174m in costs to generate 44m in profit, which for a division whose primary function is licensing and sales is incredibly high.
That 44m is profit made by BBCWW after paying their costs, which would include the money paid to the BBC for those shows. The BBC doesn't just "give" content to BBCWW.The BBC would get their income from programme sales and BBCWW makes a profit which it declares in its accounts after paying the BBC that money.

Imagine if Hotpoint owned Currys. Currys would make a profit but that would be after paying Hotpoint for all their washing machines etc, on which Hotpoint would make profit of its own. Hotpoint wouldn't just "give" washing machines to Currys.
If that happened with the BBC and BBCWW it would be highly illegal because it would be using public money to subsidise a commercial operation.

BBCWW distributes content for indie producers as well as the BBC, business they wouldn't get if they did such a bad job as you're suggesting. The Guardian, quite knowledgeable on media matters, would have had something to say as well if that was the case.
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Old 07-07-2013, 11:41
Mulett
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I think there are two simple questions:
[LIST=1][*]Does Doctor Who cover its own production costs with income from overseas sales/merchandise etc?
[*]Does Doctor Who generate a profit for the BBC with income from overseas sales/merchandise etc?[/LIST]
I think as long as the answer to question 1 is 'Yes' then the show is doing well.

If its 'Yes' to both, then it begs the questions why on earth the BBC is only producing two episodes of Doctor Who this year!
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Old 07-07-2013, 12:37
Lii
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The BBC doesn't just "give" content to BBCWW
Actually it does, that's exactly how BBC Worldwide operates.

It is the licensing division of the BBC with free access to its archives. The only money it has to pay to use the catalogue are to parties outside of the BBC (actors, composers etc) if additional royalty or licensing fees must be paid.

BBC Worldwide doesn't pay a fee as it is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BBC, any money generated goes back to the parent company as profit.
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Old 07-07-2013, 12:39
FriendlyGoat
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Of course it makes money. The sale of the programme to 47 other television networks in countries around the world ensures that the show makes a profit, then there's the money made by BBC Worldwide from the hundreds of lines of merchandise they churn out.
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