“It’s not the end of BBC Three, it is the beginning of a new BBC Three.”
Those are the words of Director General Tony Hall as he confirmed that BBC Three will be moved exclusively to iPlayer in autumn next year, with its budget slashed by 70 per cent.
“I want younger and less affluent audiences to be better served by the BBC. Younger audiences are increasingly moving online and on demand. The challenge is to take the brilliance of BBC Three into that world,” he added.
The switch from TV to online-only arrives as viewers increasingly use BBC iPlayer to watch programmes on demand. Indeed, the BBC enjoyed its busiest month yet on the streaming service in January 2014. With BBC Three’s audience accounting for 29 per cent of all 16 to 34 year olds, the younger generation that are most willing to embrace video on demand, the move would seem like a smart match.
The transition, though, will see the channel’s budget cut from £85 million to just £25 million, which will come as a blow not just to fans of the channel’s content, but also the new comedy talent that it has consistently nurtured.
Indeed, £30 million of that cut will instead be given to BBC One to fund drama, while the old TV slot will allow space for a BBC+1 service and a one-hour extension of CBBC to 8pm.
Lord Hall said “[I am] not prepared to compromise on the quality of what I think is at the heart of the BBC, and that is drama”, reports the BBC.
The introduction of iPlayer-only shows is a natural step for the broadcaster, who have been premiering shows online for some time: as Hall puts it, the beginning of a new BBC Three.
But with less edgy comedy and more traditional drama, the BBC is now risking cutting off the very generation that it is trying to appeal to with an all-streaming service.
The BBC Trust, though, will carry out a public consultation before approving the decision.
“In this case, we expect to conduct a public value test, including a public consultation, so licence fee payers will have the opportunity to have their say in the process,” a spokesman told the BBC.