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The latest season of Doctor Who started this month, and the show is coming into its 35th series. The programme went through a revival nearly a decade ago and has since grown immensely in popularity, reaching new heights of viewership and becoming a larger force within licensing. While this popularity still predominantly comes from its UK audience base, the growing recognition and accessibility of Doctor Who will likely present more opportunities for the cult TV favourite within toys and games going forward.
With the first episode airing in 1963 in the UK, Doctor Who is amongst some of the longest running programmes still being broadcast on TV. The show, which follows the titular-named alien in his adventures across space and time, quickly became a hit following its first episode and led to numerous new serials until the mid-1990s when production of the show halted. In 2005, however, the show was revived and given a longer format and new writing team that eventually made the show a cult favourite for a modern generation of audiences. This has led to the expansion of The Doctor Who licence, which can now be found across numerous areas of consumer packaged goods, including home wares, apparel, accessories, appliances, home furnishings, and toys and games.
Doctor Who’s overall size within toys and games is relatively small compared to other licensed brands, and it is largely prevalent within the UK, which is the core audience of the TV show. However, according to BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, the last season of Doctor Who was licensed to 189 territories in 2014, emphasising the growing global reach of the programme. According to the organisation, Doctor Who is the number one TV brand on Tumblr and one of the top five most-tweeted dramas on Twitter. BBC Worldwide also reported 29.1% growth in licensing sales of the Doctor Who title in 2014. The show has grown in popularity in countries with heavy English-speaking populations like the US, Canada and Australia, both due to broadcast by the BBC, as well as the show’s introduction onto popular streaming service Netflix. The brand has a variety of products within traditional toys and games that use its licence, from remote control products like the flying Tardis to role play and dress-up toys like the sonic screwdriver. In addition, the Lego Group will be heavily licensing Doctor Who in the coming years, as it already has a Lego Doctor Who play set to be released within the next year, as well as a Doctor Who figurine pack within Lego Dimensions, which is set to be released on 27 September 2015.
Should the popularity of Doctor Who continue to grow, especially in new markets outside heavily English-speaking countries, the licensing opportunities for the brand could very well expand, especially within toys and games. The Doctor Who licence will be featured within Lego Dimensions, and it is entirely possible that there will be even more opportunities in video games, as the licence is currently mostly involved in traditional toy sales within toys and games. In addition, Doctor Who might be able to find long-running brands with which to partner within traditional toys and games, like it did for Doctor Who Monopoly in 2011. Regardless of what develops, as long as the TV show remains popular, Doctor Who’s licensing potential will remain very strong.