As “Doctor Who” celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend with big audiences on the other side of the Pond, BBC America was able to attract a sizable audience of its own — setting a network record in the process.
“The Day of the Doctor,” a new episode and one of the last to feature Matt Smith as the time-space-traveling Time Lord, averaged 2.4 million viewers Stateside despite airing in the afternoon on a Saturday. Add in a primetime encore, and “Day of the Doctor” averaged 3.6 million viewers.
The episode was simulcast Saturday in 75 countries and also shown theatrically, selling out in 11 U.S. cities.
While not an especially big audience by U.S. standards, it’s a record for BBC America and about eight times bigger than its most popular show of the previous week (294,000 who tuned in for an episode of “Star Trek: Next Generation”).
On Saturday, BBC was the No. 1 cable network on Twitter while setting a record on Tumblr with the highest level of activity of any televised event ever, including Super Bowls.
“Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor” drew a big 10.2 million viewers in the U.K. on Saturday, representing a 37 share of the audience. The BBC sci-fi drama, which had a 75-minute running time, failed to match the preceding BBC show, “Strictly Come Dancing,” which peaked at 11.7 million. Also Saturday, “The X Factor” on ITV was seen by 7.7 million.
The special TV show starred three actors playing different generations of the Doctor — Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt — as well as a cameo from another Doctor, Tom Baker.
“Doctor Who” has been airing on BBC America since 2008, and drew its largest audience for the show’s seventh-season premiere in September 2012. That episode drew 1.55 million viewers in Nielsen’s Live+same-day estimates, which swelled to 2.47 million with seven days of DVR playback.
The most recent season finale, in May of this year, did 1.27 million same-day viewers and 2.2 million in Live+7.
Leo Barraclough contributed to this report.