The latest season of Doc Martin will arrive at public TV stations later than expected, prompting at least one major-market station to temporarily drop the hit British comedy from its schedule.
Rights holder Acorn TV has extended its exclusive streaming window for Season 8 and has not yet set a date for wider release. Public TV stations usually premiere new seasons of Doc Martin in January or February through distributor American Public Television.
[UPDATE: Doc Martin will begin airing on public TV stations in January 2019, Acorn and APT announced June 13.]
Acorn spokesperson Chad Campbell said longer exclusive streaming periods are becoming the norm for over-the-top platforms. Acorn is a subscription service specializing in British TV, offering on-demand access to many series broadcast on public TV. Its lineup of dramas and mysteries includes Poldark, Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
“Everyone in the industry is looking for ways to differentiate themselves, and it’s become common practice to have larger exclusive windows,” Campbell said. “We’re increasing that exclusivity window for some of our signature shows and didn’t plan to make a final decision on a public television window for a few months still.”
“It’s a very competitive and growing marketplace” for streaming video on demand and broadcast, Campbell added, “so windowing for titles on different platforms continues to evolve for everyone.”
Acorn also hasn’t set a release date for the new season of A Place to Call Home. The Australian drama, which premiered in the U.S. in 2015 through APT syndication, has also become popular with public TV audiences. When APT first offered the series during its 2015 Fall Marketplace, it was a top pick among station programmers.
Viewers last saw new episodes of the Britcom about grumpy physician Doc Martin in 2015. Production company Buffalo Pictures, run by star Martin Clunes and his wife Philippa Braithwaite, takes a year off between productions. The series will conclude with Season 9.
Nine Network in St. Louis finally gave up waiting for new Doc Martin episodes. “We’ve been monitoring the release of Season 8 for months,” said spokesperson Matt Huelskamp. The station also started hearing from frustrated fans.
Because viewers “have seen previous seasons of Doc Martin multiple times,” Huelskamp said, “we felt that it was time to offer a fresh series.”
Nine Network chose the Australian program 800 Words, also distributed by APT, for Doc Martin’s Thursday slot. Huelskamp said the comedy-drama offers “interesting characters and breathtaking scenery. We felt that it would have a similar appeal to our viewers.”
Other programmers are concerned as well, said APT’s Eric Luskin, VP, premium service and syndication.
The timing of the Season 8 release of Doc Martin for public TV “was certainly a topic” at APT’s annual Fall Marketplace in November, Luskin said. Since then, Luskin has received at least five emails from programmers requesting updates.
“Based on the inquiries, we know there is an eager public television audience ready to tune in,” said APT spokesperson Jamie Haines.