Introducing the Sci-Fi Franchise That Beats "Star Wars" and "Star Trek"

Star Wars may be worth at least $4 billion to Walt Disney and Star Trek the subject of 12 mostly successful films and six television series for Viacom, but neither beats Doctor Who, the BBC adventure series about a wandering Time Lord that has thrilled audiences for five decades. The Guinness Book of World Records honored the show in 2009 as the most successful sci-fi series of all time.

Is that really fair? Taste is subjective, after all, and each series has seen more than its share of wins. For Fool contributor Tim Beyers, what makes Doctor Who so interesting is how prevalent "Whovians," as fans of the show are called, tend to be at pop culture events.

They came out in force at Denver Comic-Con, Tim says in the following video, overwhelming a conference room just for a chance to see Colin Baker and Daphne Ashbrook. In the 1980s, Baker succeeded Peter Davison as the sixth incarnation of The Doctor. Ashbrook appeared in a 1996 movie playing The Doctor's human traveling companion. That they both still attract so many fans speaks to the longevity of the franchise.

On a worldwide basis, more than 77 million in 48 countries watch The Doctor regularly, Reuters reports. Expect even more this November, when a 50th anniversary special airs. Neither the Starks and Lannisters of Game of Thrones nor the zombies of The Walking Dead have so large or fervent a fan base.

Why should this matter to you as an investor? Because passion can be a powerful profit driver. Look at AMC Networks (NASDAQ: AMCX  ) . Thanks to The Walking Dead, which debuted on the network in October 2010, revenue growth accelerated from 10.1% in 2011 to 13.9% last year, according to data supplied by S&P Capital IQ.

For Doctor Who, the difficulty for American investors is that there is no way to invest in the BBC directly. Yet there are alternatives: and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , principally.

Both companies sell single episodes and full seasons of The Doctor's adventures. Amazon, like Netflix, also streams prior seasons, while Apple says iTunes executes some 800,000 TV downloads daily. Parts 1 and 2 of the latest season rank in the top 10 of iTunes downloads in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Investing in Apple means getting a cut of the profits from those downloads. Amazon offers a similar opportunity. Will you take it? Please watch the video for Tim's full take, and then leave a comment to let us know which shows you're downloading, and from which service.

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Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 12:55 AM, JokerJoey wrote:

    Not to be nit-picky (but I will be nit-picky_, the correct abbreviated term for science fiction or speculative fiction is "SF", not the bastardized "Sci-Fi". Aargh!

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 3:40 AM, Jamzrk wrote:


    I'm a fan of science fiction and techy shows, love The Doctor, Eureka and both the Star worlds.

    And I will call it Sci Fi, not because I'm misinformed but because it's funner to say than SF and saves more time[less syllables] than saying Science Fiction.

    It's better that i spell it Sci Fi and not Sy Fy. That's the line[though SyFy Channel is pretty awesome so i forgive them.]

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 5:22 AM, raksasha wrote:

    It's kinda like this;

    Star Wars = Dell

    Star Trek = Compaq

    Doctor Who = Apple

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 7:23 AM, ziggyfff wrote:

    the SyFy channel took that name becuz of a lawsuit not for any specific design and Star Wars and Star Trek are those two brands in a dumb comparison only if you are comparing lifetime sales since both swamp apple on that basis...The doctor has a much smaller audience lifetime than star trek has

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 8:45 AM, Ovted wrote:

    "I don't care I'm still free. you can't take the sky from me." Browncoats will always live on.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 10:13 AM, theonebob wrote:

    If the premise of this article was generally accepted, there would be no need for this article.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 12:42 PM, Sillman wrote:

    No matter what anybody else says, Doctor Who is AWSOME! I've watched the Doctor since the late seventies whenever I could and now, BBC America is running the Doctor's Revisited with reruns I never was able to catch before. It's been great to see the original versions of the Daleks and the Cyberman and to see the beginings of the Master and all of the other companions in the past.

    Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars, Trek, the Matrix and of course, the browncoats will always live on, but the Doctor is the oldest and most original. Here's to another 50 years and I will continue to watch then.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2013, at 8:26 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:


    >>"I don't care I'm still free. you can't take the sky from me." Browncoats will always live on.


    I'm a fan of all three -- odd coincidence, listening to "Duel of the Fates" right now (look it up) -- but I'll admit that I find The Doctor's adventures the most satisfying overall. A remarkable mix of comedy, action, and character development, I think. Nothing ever stays the same for The Doctor.

    On an investing note, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Apple's TV download numbers skyrocket over the next several years. These shows and the various serials on SyFy are perfect for on-demand, ad-hoc viewing via Android or iPad.

    They're also well-made for second screen viewing. Think of watching The Doctor on BBC America and following along with an app that includes information, background, etc. -- a smart addition for a new viewer, I think.

    Now, for your viewing pleasure, my favorite moments of the 11th Doctor:

    Foolish best,



    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

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