License Global speaks with Andrew Carley, global licensing director, BBC Studios about how the “Doctor Who” brand continues to innovate and keep a fanbase that spans generations interested, six decades on from its original launch. And it’s about to go global …

Ian Hart, Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA

April 1, 2024

6 Min Read
Andrew Carley.
Andrew Carley.BBC Studios

License Global: “Doctor Who” turned 60 in 2023. What is it about the IP that resonates with fans and how do you keep the brand fresh for new fans, whilst not alienating the core audience who have followed the brand for many years? 

Andrew Carley: As a brand, “Doctor Who” is continually evolving in line with the Doctor’s regenerations and our licensees and partners play such an important role in that. One of the great things about the partners we work with is that they are always thinking of innovative ways to reflect the passion that the fans have to create unique collectibles.  

The Doctor’s ability to regenerate every few years keeps the brand feeling fresh and exciting, even though it turned 60 in 2023. It may be a new face steering the TARDIS with each regeneration but at its core “Doctor Who” always remains a quintessentially British show about a quirky alien with two-hearts travelling through time and space. It’s this that has kept it as such a firm favorite in households for the last 60 years with fans spanning generations and that fanbase continues to grow.  

With Disney+ on board as the global broadcaster (excluding the U.K.) for the new series we now have the opportunity to build out “Doctor Who” into a truly global opportunity. At the same time the new series with Ncuti Gatwa playing The Doctor is expected to attract new audiences in a way we haven’t seen before.  

With Kidult culture being such a huge trend at the moment, the “Doctor Who” brand must really be able to tap into older fans wanting to introduce the brand to their kids? 

The Doctor’s ability to regenerate really plays such an important part in reaching all generations of fans across age groups as it not only allows new fans an obvious entry point into the ‘Whoniverse,’ but gives the entire brand an opportunity to refresh. Following the landmark deal for Disney+ to stream the new series globally across the platform, the fanbase is set to get bigger and bigger.  

With the brand being around for over 60 years, there is a whole generation of fans who were introduced to it through their parents or grandparents. The combination of sci-fi, great story telling and very high production values will drive to the kidult audience. 
BBC studios has had success in the LBE space in recent years, with both “Bluey,” “Hey Duggee” and with the “Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder” touring exhibition. Focusing on the latter, how challenging is it putting together an experience like that, for an IP that has such a diverse fanbase? 

The “Worlds of Wonder” exhibition really gives fans the first opportunity to immerse themselves in the science behind “Doctor Who,” but the great thing about the exhibition is that there is something for everyone. It’s a unique perspective of the brand and shows how science has shaped the adventures on screen, which means science fans as well as “Doctor Who” fans can enjoy it. 

It’s interactive as well as getting really into the science behind the show, meaning it appeals to that huge range of ages “Doctor Who” fans span. People can enjoy “Worlds of Wonder” as an adult or as part of a school trip for younger audiences. 
It’s produced by leading experiential design experts Sarner International under license from BBC Studios and has eight zones. A range of hands-on immersive experiences and interactive features take visitors on a journey through Cosmic Curiosities, a TARDIS Tech room and the science behind time travel asking whether it really is possible, as well as the Monster Vault, where you can get up close with some of the weird and wonderful characters that have graced our screens.  

What are some of the key collaborations that have defined the Doctor Who brand, when it comes to licensing? 

“Doctor Who” has a variety of licensees and partnerships globally spanning comics and collectibles, audiobooks, podcasts and magazines. Since 2012, over 17 million Sonic Screwdrivers and action figures, 19 million DVDs have sold globally and over one million tickets were purchased for “Doctor Who” live events.  

To celebrate the Christmas special episode in 2023, fans were excited to see the brand light up the iconic London Eye and with long standing partners such as “Doctor Who Magazine” – which published its 600th issue in January this year – Character Options, Titan Comics and Big Finish there are a lot of exciting things for Doctor Who as a brand.  

In December, the trailer dropped for the next season of “Doctor Who,” which features several returning characters and premieres around the time of Licensing Expo in May. How will you be showcasing the brand at the event and what can you tell us about any consumer product programs that will support the series? 

May will be a busy, but incredibly exciting time for “Doctor Who,” as Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor will hit screens for the first full series. This will bring with it a host of brand partnerships, exciting global premieres and campaign launches. It’s too early for us to share specifics but it is safe to say it’ll be a big month in the ‘Whoniverse.’ 

What else can we expect from BBC Studios in 2024 and beyond? 

Whilst our key brands – notably “Bluey,” “Doctor Who,” “Hey Duggee” and “BBC Earth” – rightly attract a great deal of attention and investment across the business, we also recognize that the BBC archive has a wealth of nostalgia brands that we haven’t fully tapped into in the licensing space. 

Expanding our digital content pipeline through BBC Studios Social is also a priority. In terms of new linear content, we have the “Hey Duggee” spin off series, “Hey Duggee’s Squirrel Club” launching in 2025 – and that’s just for starters!  

Bolstering our growth globally continues to be important. Internationally, “Hey Duggee” is entering the FAST space in the U.S. with upcoming episodes set to air on the BBC Kids channel on Roku, alongside VOD sales to platforms like Peacock. Other new broadcasters for “Hey Duggee” include RUV Iceland and SBT Brazil. Additionally, “Hey Duggee” is making its free-to-air debut in various Middle Eastern countries through MBC3.  

Bluey,” is also now available in the Middle East on the free-to-air platform Spacetoon Kids and its live theatre tour “Bluey’s Big Play” is launching in EMEA markets including the UAE, Spain and France. We’re looking at expanding “Bluey’s” brand presence in Asia, particularly in Japan and South Korea. As ever there’s lots going on and we have big plans for the future! 

See BBC Studios at Licensing Expo in May. Registration for Licensing Expo is open now, find out more. 

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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