After moving online, BBC Three returns to the airwaves

LONDON — When the BBC withdrew its television channel aimed at young people and moved uploaded in 2016, the broadcaster went where its ...


LONDON — When the BBC withdrew its television channel aimed at young people and moved uploaded in 2016, the broadcaster went where its viewers seemed to be.

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon had transformed the way people – both in Britain and the US – watched TV, and BBC Three target audience 16 to 34 years old were apparently turning its back on traditional television channels.

Today the British public service broadcaster has made a U-turn: BBC Three, which airs shows such as ‘Fleabag’ and ‘Normal People’, is back on terrestrial television.

This decision reflects the ongoing challenges of understanding how the Internet is changing viewing habits. And it shows how the BBC is doubling down on youth programming as it faces competition and potential budget cuts.

BBC Three was launched in 2003 as the younger brother of the BBC’s two long-running television channels. It produced provocative comedies like ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Little Britain’ which appealed to younger audiences than the more conventional programming of BBC One and Two. The decision to turn BBC Three into a streaming channel also came with a massive cut in its budget, from 85 to 30 million pounds (about $114-40 million).

“It was a disaster. And it was an immediate disaster,” Patrick Barwise, co-author of The War Against the BBC, said of the decision.

According to Enders dataa research company.

There is broader evidence that millions of households have not, in fact, switched over to streaming. In an interview, Fiona Campbell, the director of BBC Three, highlighted a recent report on American TV viewing habits from Nielsen this showed that 64% of viewers still regularly watch cable TV, compared to 26% who watch streaming.

The idea of ​​young people turning their backs on traditional TV also seems more complicated than it did six years ago. The relaunch of BBC Three also aims to make its programming more accessible, Campbell said, particularly to less affluent and more rural viewers who may not have high-speed internet access and are less likely to stream.

Credit…via BBC

According to Barwise, many younger viewers are also taking a hybrid approach. “People watch Netflix or other videos once in a while and then they watch TV,” he said. Despite a decline, young viewers are still watching more one o’clock live television per day, according to Ofcom, the UK media regulator.

In its online-only years, BBC Three has still produced some of the broadcaster’s most popular shows, and the renewed investment in the channel – its programming budget will return to £80million – comes at a time when the BBC faces pressure from many sides. .

The British government recently announced that the country’s license fee, which is charged annually to every household with a television and which is the BBC’s main source of funding, will be frozen for the next two years. With inflation rapidly rising in Britain, that will likely mean another round of cuts, and BBC chief Tim Davie said that “everything is on the agenda”

“Having a freeze on BBC license fees at the exact moment when real inflation is really high and inflation in the broadcasting industry is really high, can’t be a good time,” said Roger Mosey , former director of BBC Television. News. “Not only do you have competition from streamers for audiences, but you also have competition for talent.”

In this context, the public broadcaster is betting on BBC Three’s track record of producing buzzy shows combined with the appeal of traditional ‘linear’ television. In Britain, despite the availability of seemingly endless streaming content, viewers are turning to weekly viewing of appointments.

The BBC airs many of its popular programs as full seasons on iPlayer, its streaming service, at the same time the first episode airs on television. Charlotte Moore, BBC content manager, said in a telephone interview that with ‘The Tourist’, a drama starring Jamie Dornan, “we still had two million people choosing to watch it on a Sunday night, even if everything is available on iPlayer.”

When BBC Three’s ‘Normal People’ program aired on the broadcaster’s traditional TV channels, it was a regular trending topic on UK social media. “When we’re doing shows that really spark conversation,” Campbell said, “people want to be present for the live moment. And that’s why the channels always have a role to play.

Campbell also thinks there are downsides to only distributing shows via streaming, as viewers may be more hesitant to engage in documentaries about difficult public service topics. Citing a recent series on revenge porn, she said: “These are very difficult topics, and people would be like, ‘Do I really want to go there?’ Whereas if they meet it on linear, it may be less intimidating.

Although Moore wouldn’t say whether BBC Three would be immune to the next round of budget cuts, she did say youth programming would remain a priority. “Obviously we’ll be looking at our entire funding envelope to determine how we’re going to meet all the needs of the public, with the money we have,” she said. “But of course young audiences will continue to be a vital part of that.”

With her return to broadcasting, Campbell also hopes to set BBC Three apart from commercial rivals by telling stories from across Britain. Upcoming programs include ‘Brickies’, which follows young bricklayers in the north of England, and a tractor racing competition called ‘Fasting and the farmer(ish), shot in Northern Ireland and created to appeal to the 11 million young people who live in the British countryside.

“You want to reflect the current challenges, pressures and difficulties that people are facing now, even more so after the pandemic,” Campbell said. “If we don’t reflect that, then why do they need us in their lives?”

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Newsrust - US Top News: After moving online, BBC Three returns to the airwaves
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