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Canada’s Bell Inks Multi-Platform Pact with BBC Worldwide for ‘Doctor Who’ (EXCLUSIVE)

LIVERPOOL — Canada’s Bell Media and BBC Worldwide North America have signed a new multiplatform licensing pact for “Doctor Who” that sees Bell’s specialty cable channel Space continue to be the exclusive Canadian broadcaster of the BBC series, and CraveTV become the show’s exclusive Canadian streaming service.

CraveTV will carry “Doctor Who” beginning with season nine this summer; seasons one through eight will be available exclusively on the service by the end of this year; and season 10 and additional upcoming episodes will also be streamed exclusively on CraveTV following their full-season broadcast on Space.

Season 9 of “Doctor Who” had an audience of 697,000 viewers in its 9 p.m. ET Saturdays timeslot on Space. The 2015 Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song” drew 856,000 viewers on Dec. 25 at 9 p.m. ET, making it the most-watched program on Christmas Day on Canadian television among the 25-54 and 18-49 demos.

“For us ‘Doctor Who’ really embodies the core values that drive our Space channel — it’s epic, it’s imaginative, it’s addictive. While it clearly has a highly engaged, dedicated audience, we’ve also seen it grow,” Tracey Pearce, Bell Media senior VP, specialty and pay, told Variety.

The “Doctor Who” back seasons have been on CraveTV since its launch, and have been an “important cornerstone” of the service’s sci-fi offering, but it will now be exclusive, as it has been on the linear service.

“What we see are two things: First, as we continue to see the audiences grow on Space, we can offer those new audiences the opportunity to go back and enjoy previous seasons and previous doctors,” Pearce said. “Second, we are trying to find the sweet spot between keeping it exclusive for the new seasons on Space, and satisfying that craving for ‘Doctor Who’ when we don’t have new episodes on Space. So we have the feeling that they work well together.”

“Doctor Who” returns later this year on Space with the 2016 Christmas special, followed by the premiere of season 10 in spring 2017. Season 10 marks the final season for writer Steven Moffat, who has served as head writer and executive producer since season 5. Chris Chibnall, the creator of “Broadchurch” and previously a writer for “Doctor Who,” takes over as the series showrunner in 2018.

Other shows on CraveTV include HBO’s “The Wire,” “The Sopranos” and “Sex and The City”; Showtime hits including “The Affair” and “Penny Dreadful”; and franchise series such as “Seinfeld,” “South Park” and “The Flash.”

Matt Forde, BBC Worldwide North America exec VP of content production, sales and distribution, said that “Doctor Who” is BBC Worldwide’s strongest show in Canada, which is a testament to Bell’s nurturing of the series. “What they are brilliant at doing is getting under the skin of it in the same way as happens in the U.K.: The fascination with the Doctor and all the different characters, and the different layers, and the sense of fun on the one hand, the showbiz on the other, but also the intrigue and the depth that sits within it,” he said. “They really market it in that way. Also, they really keep a freshness to it. When you are there, you are really aware of it being a major show. They cherish it and look after it.”

Michael L. Smith, senior VP content sales and co-productions, brokered the deal with Bell for BBC Worldwide North America.

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