‘Doctor Who’ Shakes Up Writers’ Payment Structure After Disney+ Boards BBC Sci-Fi Series

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EXCLUSIVE: Doctor Who, the long-running BBC sci-fi series, has shifted away from a residual model for its writers since Disney+ came on board as a partner, we understand.

The series, which is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary with a trio of specials from returning showrunner Russell T. Davies, has moved towards a buyout model for writers, Deadline has been told.

Sources said that episodic writers are now being paid a large fee upfront rather than a smaller fee plus residuals that has seen previous scribes earn additional compensation when Doctor Who is repeated.

Doctor Who, which has aired nearly 900 episodes over six decades, has been one of the most lucrative British sources of residuals for former writers down the years as it is so heavily repeated. The entire back catalog has just landed on BBC iPlayer, for example.

While Deadline understands that contracts were freely negotiated and agreed with writers and their agents, the move comes at a topical time for writers’ compensation, particularly given the recent labor action in the U.S. Doctor Who remains a British show and thereby doesn’t have to abide by WGA contracts but the optics are interesting given that the move comes after Disney+ boarded the series last year as a partner outside of the UK and Ireland.

Deadline understands the Doctor Who writer contract deals were struck prior to the WGA resolution, which came two months ago. Residuals were a key sticking point in those negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP and the guild’s eventual deal included increased streaming residuals and viewership-based streaming bonuses.

Ellie Peers, General Secretary of the Writers Guild of Great Britain, told Deadline: “As a trade union we take our responsibilities in negotiations very seriously and this involves being in full possession of the facts before taking up issues with broadcasters and others, both privately and publicly. The terms outlined to us by Deadline, if true, would represent a serious retrograde step for UK writers working on Doctor Who.

“We urge writers who have these contracts to come forward and contact us in confidence so we can look at them properly and move forward from there,” she added.

A BBC/BBC Studios spokeswoman said: “Doctor Who deals are individually negotiated and commercially confidential. However, all deals take into account both the rights needed by the programme funders and the fees and residuals payable to talent.”

Davies is serving as showrunner for a second stint and has supercharged the series with the help of Disney+ funding. His Dark Materials producer Bad Wolf has also boarded the series, which is produced by BBC Studios.

Doctor Who returned to the BBC on Saturday night for the first of a trio of anniversary specials, which was watched by more than 5 million people. David Tennant is playing the Doctor for the specials before Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa takes over the iconic role next year, becoming the first Black actor to lead the show.

The new series also includes Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Miriam Margolyes and Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney, while a number of spin-offs are in the works.

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