It’s been a rough few months for Doctor Who fans in the United States who want to watch their favorite show. First, the news came in late January that only a single episode of new Who, the Christmas Special, would be broadcast in 2016 with Season 10 following in the spring of 2017. Then, both Hulu and Netflix announced a few days later that Doctor Who was disappearing from their respective rosters at the end of January. That left Doctor Who fans in the United States with no ability to stream the program legally. Doctor Who went dark for much of North America starting in early February.
The time of darkness is now over. Amazon announced today that it reached an agreement with the BBC to exclusively stream Doctor Who in the United States on Amazon Prime starting on Sunday, March 27th. Prime customers will be able to watch seasons one through eight and their associated holiday specials starting that day, with the ninth season being made available this fall. Presumably, Classic Doctor Who will appear sometime in the near future.
Two major theories arose about why the BBC let the streaming contracts with Netflix and Hulu expire. Some observers speculated that the BBC wanted to create their own BBC America streaming service, much like the stand alone apps provided by HBO and CBS. Others suggested that the more likely cause was related to corporate bargaining; the BBC wanted to see if anyone would pay more to become the exclusive streaming provider of the show in the United States. The latter theory got a boost in late February when Amazon tweeted that Doctor Who would be coming to Amazon Prime, though the tweet was quickly deleted.
The relationship between Amazon and the BBC for the last year or so can only be described as tense. Amazon began yanking various BBC programs from Amazon Prime over a year ago, including Doctor Who. Sources close to Amazon reported that exclusivity was the issue because their contract with the BBC let shows simultaneously appear on other streaming services. That conflict is now resolved for one program at least, with Amazon being the only provider of a flagship BBC program.