BBC Three to return as a broadcast channel in January 2022

The BBC today confirmed the return of BBC Three to TV screens. The move is part of our drive to deliver more value to audiences.

Published: 12:40 pm, 2 March 2021
BBC Three logo
The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programmes reach as many young people as possible, wherever they live in the UK. So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC Three its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, groundbreaking content that deserves the widest possible audience, and using BBC iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value.”
— Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer

The BBC’s Annual Plan 2020/21 published last year, outlined research which confirmed there remains an available audience on broadcast television for BBC Three.

BBC Three has been a real hit machine for the BBC, delivering some of our biggest performing shows, from Killing Eve to Fleabag and Normal People. We believe in backing success and, having committed to double the investment on BBC Three commissions over the next two years, we want to showcase that content to a wider audience. Using both a broadcast channel and BBC iPlayer in tandem, will help to grow our offer and deliver more value to younger audiences.

While the BBC does well with large parts of the younger audience - on average, young adults in the UK spend more media time per week (seven and a half hours) with BBC’s services than any other brand; our research identified a significant group of younger viewers who maintain a strong linear TV habit but are currently light users of the BBC. We want to change that.

Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer says: “BBC Three is a BBC success story, backing creativity, new talent and brave ideas has resulted in hit after hit, from Fleabag and Man Like Mobeen, Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK and Jesy Nelson’s Odd One Out, to Normal People and This Country.

"The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programmes reach as many young people as possible wherever they live in the UK. So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC Three its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, groundbreaking content that deserves the widest possible audience and using BBC iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value.”

The returning BBC Three will deliver greater public value by further increasing the diversity and creativity of our output and build on the strengths of BBC Three’s online performance. That’s why we will aim for at least two-thirds of the expanded BBC Three’s programme spend to be outside of London and across the UK.

BBC Three has a strong heritage in breaking and supporting new British talent and this will create a bigger platform to launch and celebrate them. It will provide us with a new shop window to reach a younger audience currently underserved by the BBC, bringing them the best BBC young programming and talent across all genres.

We propose to launch in January 2022 and adapt CBBC’s operating hours to make the most value out of the increased content we commission . Ofcom has charged the BBC with doing more to reach young people. The channel will be targeted at audiences aged 16-34. The new channel will broadcast from 7pm to 4am each day, the same as the hours of the channel when it closed in 2016. As a result CBBC’s broadcast hours will revert to closing at 7pm - as was the case before 2016. As a result, we intend to expand the remit of BBC Three with a pre-watershed content offer suitable for 13+. Importantly, we will not take any further traditional TV channel capacity for our services, but reallocate distribution capacity from our existing services within the current space.

Notes to Editors

BBC Three has won a raft of awards, including RTS Channel of the Year in 2017, Digital Channel of the Year 2019 Edinburgh TV Festival and is currently Broadcast Digital Channel Of The Year.

BBC Three launched in 2003 and moved online in February 2016, it is expected to start rebroadcasting in January 2022 subject to Ofcom approval.

We announced our intention to double BBC Three investment in the BBC’s Annual Plan 2020/21 and it’s funded via cost savings and efficiency.

A linear BBC Three channel will do more for diverse, underserved audiences across the UK. These include minority ethnic backgrounds, lower socio-economic groups, often in the north of England, and often with less access to digital on-demand services.

BBC Three will also build on its ongoing partnerships with Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland and Creative Wales. The content will cover the portrayal of diverse, under-represented groups, a variety of regional realities, partnering with new Independent companies and BBC Nations teams to discover talent and ideas.

There remains a significant number of young viewers with a strong broadcast habit, but who are light users of the BBC.

The return of BBC Three as a broadcast channel is subject to regulatory approval. The BBC will start the Public Interest Test (PIT) process later this week with the publication of a public consultation document on Friday 5 March.

MO

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