Sci-Fi Fodder

'Doctor Who' More Popular Than 'Battlestar Galactica'?

Is 'Doctor Who' more popular than 'Battlestar Galactica'? A post on the Big Dumb Object (which includes the 'Doctor Who' spinoff Torchwood in the comparison), would lead you to believe that the good Doctor much more popular.

Ahh, but as we all know, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. And this clearly falls into that God-forsaken world of statistics. The article cites a Google Trends graph, which plots the volume of traffic on the engine for each of the following search terms: 'Battlestar Galactica', 'Doctor Who' and 'Torchwood'. From the graph, 'Doctor Who' has held a significant advantage over the past year.

But, as a good researcher, I added a few other search terms to the mix - 'Firefly', 'Buffy' and 'Heroes' (and deleted 'Torchwood', because it really was just a blip on the graph). Interestingly enough, 'Buffy' has held steady in search popularity. In fact, except for a spike just after the debut of 'Doctor Who' season two, 'Buffy' has matched or exceeded the search volume of the show. Not bad for a show that has been cancelled for several years!

The real strange looking graph line is for 'Heroes'. At first glance, it seems to destroy the competition, almost doubling the volume for any of the other shows. However, upon closer inspection, 'Heroes' also bested the competition in 2005 - before the show was even on the air! This is the true fallacy of this type of comparison. Heroes is a generic term. Obviously, people were (and likely still are) searching for that term with no thought of the television show. It is clear that Google Trends, although a neat tool, has to be used with care when attempting comparisons.

So, lets get back to the original question: Is 'Doctor Who' currently more popular than 'Battlestar Galactica'?

It's been reported that 'Battlestar Galactica' drew approximately 2.2 million viewers for the season 3 premiere. The viewing audience for the 'Doctor Who' season 2 premiere was 1.6 million.

So, 'Battlestar' is more popular, no matter what Google says. But, hey, I watch both - no reason to deprive myself based on something silly like popularity!



Viewing figures based on....?

The US vs the UK? Or US to US? What about UK to UK? Quibbly I know, but if you seriously want to debate which is more popular as opposed to pulling numbers out that please you the most, specify. Is it more popular in the US? IF these numbers are from the US, then yes. Worldwide? That's gonna take a bit more digging.

-- Posted by: Taleya at October 20, 2006 1:18 AM

I've never watched Doctor Who, but I do know my parents have a Doctor Who pinball machine in their basement. It's cool.

-- Posted by: Jason at October 20, 2006 1:36 AM

Doctor Who gets 11 million viewers in the UK. There are many more people in the world that watch Doctor Who than BSG. Therefore Doctor Who is more popular.

-- Posted by: rich flair at October 20, 2006 6:46 AM

These are good points! The Google data is ostensibly from worldwide searches - but, the ratings numbers that I quoted were just from the US. I suppose the comparison would be better for the sum total of Doctor Who Season 3 viewers in the UK + the season 2 viewers in the US versus BSG viewers in both the UK and US...however, I am not sure if BSG is televised across the pond.

Now, Doctor Who gets 11 million a week in the UK??? I have to call BS on that number, as there are only 60 million people in the UK total (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=6). 1 in 6 watch the Doctor each week? No way.

-- Posted by: Fred at October 20, 2006 11:13 AM

11 million was about the peak for when Doctor Who launched in the UK -- but it was regularly getting 6 or 7 million in the UK. It's absolutely *huge* in the UK. It's a mainstream success in the UK, as opposed to the cult success of Galactica (or Doctor Who in the US).

While in the US Galactica is more popular than Doctor Who, I suspect that once you look worldwide (and include the UK) Doctor Who is more popular.

-- Posted by: Michael Lee at October 20, 2006 12:07 PM

Wow...that boggles my mind! If a US show got 10% (equivalent to the Doctor Who 6 mil/wk) viewing.....let's see....300 million * 10%.....30 million! The top rated program last week (Grey's Anatomy) drew 22 million. It would almost have to have a 50% increase in viewers to match that show.

That is simply awesome. I think I learned something today.

-- Posted by: Fred at October 20, 2006 1:01 PM

Just a slight correction. BUFFY was not cancelled. It simply came to a close.

-- Posted by: Robert Moore at October 20, 2006 2:12 PM

Yes, Dr Who averages 7 million UK viewers for each new episode; its audience share is consistently 40% of all UK viewers! You can't argue that Dr Who is more popular than BSG - and rightly so.

-- Posted by: Jason, West Chester PA at October 20, 2006 3:18 PM

Also, Doctor Who's ratings in the US would probably be a lot higher if most of us fans hadn't already downloaded the episodes (or imported the DVDs from, say, amazon.co.uk for example) 'cause of the insanely long delay between their airings in the UK and the US.

-- Posted by: theshadowalker at October 20, 2006 4:01 PM

Galactica has turned SOAP. it stinks. Doctor Who on the other hand is the best Sci-Fi around hands down.

-- Posted by: Nathan Cundiff at January 28, 2007 4:06 AM

I live in the UK and watch both shows. I have to say that there is absolutely no comparison between the quality and acting. BSG is far far superior to Dr. Who and the latter is so amateurish by comparison. BSG has far better storylines and the special effects make Dr. Who look like they came out of 'Blue Peter'. If BSG was on a terrestrial channel and was a British production it would have higher ratings than Dr. Who, IMO

-- Posted by: Tony Sachdeva at January 29, 2007 8:21 AM

I must make the point that my comments (earlier) are based on my living in the UK

-- Posted by: Tony Sachdeva at January 29, 2007 8:24 AM

Given the population of the US there are about 247.800.000 people who don't care about BG against 58.600.000 people in the UK who don't cate about dr. Who.

So Doctor Who is less unpopulair then BG.

-- Posted by: Marsu at April 20, 2007 7:41 PM