Disney+ screws UK Doctor Who fans with global release strategy

Disney’s money beats Brits’ needs to sleep.


The latest series of Doctor Who will debut on iPlayer and globally on Disney+ at midnight in the UK. The first two hour-long episodes land on May 11, which will then air on BBC One later that day in prime time. Those who know how time zones work will have already guessed that Doctor Who will now be available to view in the US on May 10 at 7pm ET and 4pm PT.

There are plenty of sucky things about living in the UK, one of which is that we’re a day behind the US TV schedule. Buzzy shows like Lost were often spoiled by the internet long before it was legally available to view here. To curb the rampant piracy, shows like Game of Thrones and Succession were broadcast at 2am or 3am.

That way, ardent viewers could DVR those airings and watch them before they got to work lest it be spoiled. Because, if you didn’t, you’d have to be extremely careful when you were treading around on the internet. There were very few shows I didn’t have spoiled for me given that I work on the internet all the damn day.

So you can imagine my dismay to learn that Doctor Who, one of the crown jewels in the British TV firmament, will now be treated the same way. It’s hard not to feel annoyed given that the bulk of the series’ funding comes from the license fee paid by the majority of TV owners in the UK. It seems mad, to me, that the global simulcast isn't tied to the UK broadcast, rather than this obvious tweak to ensure the US gets it first. Especially when the alternative is to stay up until 2am on a Saturday morning.

(Yes, I know there’s precedent for this, The Five Doctors aired on PBS two days before the UK airing, and the TV movie aired on Fox twelve days earlier. But that was in the pre-internet heyday when you didn't have every big moment from the show shared by its own official social channels mere seconds after it aired.)