15 Dec 2017
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BBC to close BBC Three and take it online

MUMBAI: The first details of proposals to close BBC Three as a broadcast channel and reinvent it online have been unveiled by UK pubcaster the BBC.

The changes – which are subject to approval by the BBC Trust – will generate savings of £50 million, which will be reinvested into BBC Three online, as well as strengthening BBC One.

The proposal would allow the use of new forms and formats, different durations, and more individualised and interactive content based on two key editorial pillars – Make Me Think and Make Me Laugh.

Children’s programmes on CBBC would be extended by two hours per night as a result of the proposal, which also includes launching a catch-up channel, BBC One + 1 – making programmes more available to people who do not use BBC iPlayer or have access to broadband. This will help mitigate any short-term loss in time spent among 16-34-year-old audiences, as BBC One still generates the biggest reach among younger audiences.

BBC DG Tony Hall said, “With the licence fee frozen we’ve had to make difficult decisions – and none more so than our proposal to move BBC Three online. In rising to this challenge, we’ve managed to come up one of the most exciting and ambitious proposals I’ve seen since I came back to the BBC.

“By searching out new ways to engage and entertain young audiences on their terms, the new BBC Three will be a great example of how we can reinvent the public service for the digital world – using their talent, appearing on the platforms and devices that they use and talking to them as equals and partners.”

BBC director of television Danny Cohen said, “As a former BBC Three Controller this genuinely wasn’t an easy decision but if ever there’s proof that necessity is the mother of invention, I believe it’s today’s proposal. I didn’t want to makes savings by simply salami-slicing again across the board in BBC Television – for me that wasn’t an option.

“I’m truly very excited about the plans we are developing, both in terms of what they will mean for the future of BBC Three and what we can learn to drive the whole of the BBC forward in a time of relentless digital and technological change. I don’t want us to sit back as a legacy company and watch as generational change bites away at our impact – I want us to be at the forefront of that change.”

BBC Three Proposal Lead Damian Kavanagh said, “When we announced our plans to move BBC Three online, we admitted we were doing it earlier than hoped but it’s become clear that for young audiences, their shift from linear to TV to online is already happening. It now represents 28 per cent of the average daily viewing for 16-24s, with forecasts from Enders Analysis suggesting this will be as high as 40 per cent by 2020. Our proposal is to re-invent BBC Three for the digital age and to take risks with ideas, talent and technology. We want to take what’s great about BBC Three and what’s great about digital and merge the two, to give audiences something of the digital world, not just in it. This is not moving a TV channel and putting it online. This is new. We are the first broadcaster in the world to propose something like this.

Why BBC Three?

Scheduled TV will remain strong for the foreseeable but young audiences consume more on-demand content and watch less linear TV than they did four years ago. Put simply, people that watch BBC Three are more likely to be online and want new content and new forms of content, online.

“And we haven’t just made this up. We’ve spent months asking thousands of people from all walks of life how they consume media and what they want. We’ve looked at research from both industry and academics. Our conclusion is that this is the direction of travel. It’s earlier than we might have liked, but it is what we would have done in the long term to give young audiences what they tell us they want,” said Kavanagh.

Kavanaugh frankly noted that the decision was also down to money. The BBC will have less money in the future. “To maintain quality on BBC One and BBC Two – which are watched by young audiences in the millions – we needed a radical AND innovative approach. We simply can’t make the same amount of quality content with less money unless we start salami slicing programme budgets, and we know that’s not good for audiences. New BBC Three would allow us to do fewer shows but bigger, better and in greater depth,” said Kavanagh.

New BBC Three would be built around two pillars which audiences have told the broadcaster to value, Make Me Think and Make Me Laugh.

Make Me Think would be a mix of documentary, current affairs, news and drama that would cover topics that offer new perspectives and open people’s minds to new subjects or issues. Make Me Laugh would be centred around scripted comedy, like Uncle or Gavin & Stacey, plus personality-led entertainment that would be both provocative and edgy. Both pillars would cover topics audiences are passionate about.

“This is what audiences have told us they want from a public service, service like new BBC Three.The other area we can innovate with is digital content. 80 per cent of new BBC Three’s budget would be spent on long form shows like ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’ and ‘Bad Education’.

“The other 20 per cent would be devoted to new form digital content. This would include a range of content which we know young audiences consume and we want to innovate in – short form video, image led storytelling, votes on reactive topics or blog posts from contributors that will make people laugh and think and deliver a richer experience around our content. Imagine the Revolution guys being able to react to the 4p porridge story and getting something out on the day, or publishing an animated interview with the mother of a victim of a domestic abuse straight after Murdered By My Boyfriend,” said Kavanaugh.

BBC Three: In addition to financial necessity, moving BBC Three online presents an opportunity to develop new forms, formats, different durations, and more individualised and interactive content. It will play to BBC Three’s strengths, offer something distinctive and new, and enhance the BBC’s reputation with young audiences.

The new BBC Three has the potential to shape and expand the market for the providers of digital entertainment, information and education for 16-34 year olds in the UK and build demand for new forms of content. If successful, moving BBC Three online could help to build digital awareness in much the same way that BBC News Online encouraged to take up of the internet and BBC iPlayer helped to build the market for Video On Demand (VOD) services.

BBC One+1: BBC One+1 supports the BBC’s strategic objective to better serve audiences by strengthening the channels and by increasing the availability of programmes for those who do not use BBC iPlayer or have access to broadband. Although viewing may be shifting away from linear towards on-demand services, broadcast television is still very important for younger audiences. BBC One still generates the most unique reach amongst its TV services.

CBBC: The second proposal to strengthen the linear portfolio is extending CBBC’s hours of broadcast by two hours a day, to ensure that the BBC’s younger audiences aged six to 12 have an opportunity to watch the channel in the early evening, rather than when they are at school.

The BBC Trust’s Service Committee has confirmed that these proposals represent a significant change to the UK public services and the Trust is, therefore, required to conduct a public value test, including a public consultation, so licence fee payers, audience groups and industry stakeholders have an opportunity to have their say on the proposals.