Does Disney own Doctor Who?

Jessica Cullen
The Doctor and Ruby Sunday at the TARDIS console in Doctor Who

Much has been made about Disney acquiring the rights to Doctor Who. So what’s the deal: does Disney own the franchise now?

The BBC and Disney confirmed they were entering a Doctor Who-centric distribution partnership in October 2022.

Not only does this deal entail an unspecified contribution to the long-running TV show’s production budget, but it also includes considerable marketing spend as well. In return, Disney gets to add new Doctor Who content to its Disney+ platform globally, including Doctor Who Season 14.

But does paying for the Doctor and his adventures grant Disney ownership over the show itself? Read on to find out!

Does Disney own Doctor Who?

No, Disney doesn’t own Doctor Who — the BBC still holds ownership over the series, while Disney+ simply owns the streaming rights for everywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.

These streaming rights first came into effect with the three Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials, which aired in November-December 2023. The Doctor Who Christmas special likewise made its international debut on Disney+, weeks after the streamer seemingly spoiled its title and release date.

The Disney/BBC deal also includes Doctor Who Series 14, which will premiere in May 2024 and run for eight episodes. Showrunner Russell T Davies has even hinted that Series 14 will drop as “Season 1” — a move interpreted by longtime fans as a concession to Disney+ newcomers.

It’s currently unclear how many years the deal will last, however, it reportedly covers Doctor Who Series 15-17 (or Seasons 2-4) too. So, in short: whatever Disney picked up part of the tab for, it’s going to screen on their streaming service.

What Doctor Who content isn’t included in the Disney deal?

Any Doctor Who content that wasn’t paid for by Disney won’t be included on their streaming service, which means the entire Doctor Who catalog prior to Doctor Who Season 14 and the 60th anniversary specials won’t be available on Disney+.

Anything paid for solely by the BBC (and by extension, the British taxpayer) won’t appear on Disney+. This includes over 800 Doctor Who episodes from the show’s classic and revival era runs, right up to the 60th anniversary specials.

Spinoffs such as Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Tales of the TARDIS are also off-limits, along with Doctor Who Confidential and similar behind-the-scenes shows and specials.

To watch Doctor Who in its entirety, you’ll need to head to Max in the US or BBC iPlayer in the UK.

For more Who, check out our reviews of the newest season so far, including our ‘Space Babies’ review and ‘The Devil’s Chord review’. You can also keep tabs on the entire Doctor Who Season 14 release schedule.