BBC America is gearing up for the seventh season of the "Doctor Who" television series and the show's 50th anniversary in November 2013 with new licensing partnerships and opportunities. The show is the longest-running sci-fi series in the world and continues to earn critical acclaim as BBC America's highest rated series.
The evergreen series has more than 100 licensees, and the brand now extends over a variety of categories including home furnishings, comic books, board games, on/offline video games, beach towels, calendars, seasonal décor, toys and collectibles.
Originated in the U.K., "Doctor Who" continues to win American fans. "Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Season" was the No. 1 downloaded series on iTunes in North America last year, according to Apple.
The show is wildly popular with both males and females ages 12 to 25, and the fan base is growing.
"In the U.K., people have grown up with 'Doctor Who,'" says Soumya Sriraman, executive vice president, home entertainment and licensing, BBC America. "It's a family-friendly brand that consumers can trust, so it's a winner for retailers."
Sriraman says the property is on its way to becoming a mainstream pop culture brand in the U.S., as well. The series has been featured on NBC's "Today Show," CBS's "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and G4's "Attack of the Show." The current Doctor, actor Matt Smith, won the 2011 SPIKE Scream Award for best science fiction actor and earned a BAFTA nomination this year for his role.
With the 50th anniversary nearing, the potential for the brand is enormous and BBC America is tapping manufacturers and retailers to maximize the brand's potential.
"We are in the next stage of marketing the brand in the U.S. to the mass market," says Sriraman. "When we began marketing the brand, we didn't want to go wide at first so that we could nurture the brand properly, so we saturated the specialty channel. With the 50th anniversary coming, we are ready to take the brand to the next level."
Big news for the brand is the launch of an in-store Doctor Who section in Barnes & Noble stores that will merchandise books, DVDs, toys and action figures together. The four-foot section, which will be in stores from June 14 to July 25, will be one of the first to carry a full array of Doctor Who licensed merchandise in one specific section.
"Our marketing department allows us to be nimble and creative, so we can customize programs for retailers," says Sriraman. "We think about the property as one brand so all departments work together."
BBC America has teamed up with Ashley Eckstein's Her Universe apparel brand to create a line of Doctor Who licensed apparel and sleepwear. Eckstein is known to sci-fi fans as the voice of Ahsoka Tano on the hit animated series "Star Wars: The Clone War."
Ornaments are a key opportunity. Last year, two exclusive ornaments sold through BBC America's online shop and were top sellers.
"We have a licensee taking them wider this year," says Sriraman, who adds that more gift sets might also be on the horizon.
Other new licenses in the U.S. include IDW Publishing (The Doctor Who/Star Trek joint comic book) Elope (masks, hats and adult costumes), Her Universe (junior apparel and sleepwear), Kurt S. Adler (tree ornaments, stockings and lights), Lady Sandra (pillows, cushions and wall décor), MeadWestvaco (2013 50th anniversary calendar), Rabbit Tanaka (lamps, mirrors and clocks), Robe Factory (robes featuring the Tardis, the Eleventh Doctor, the Fourth Doctor and Dalek and Tardis beach towels), USAopoly (The 50th anniversary Doctor Who Monopoly and Yahtzee board games), and The Wand Company (The Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver universal remote control).
Later in 2012, BBC America will broadcast the series' seventh season.
"With the seventh season airing and the 50th anniversary on the way, we have many exciting opportunities for the brand," says Sriraman.
Live Doctor Who experience shows have been very successful in the U.K. and BBC America will be looking at those shows for a possible live opportunity in the U.S.