Advanced Television

Online BBC3 to be a pathfinder for other services

December 10, 2014

By Colin Mann

Senior executives at the BBC have revealed further details of the Corporation’s proposals to close BBC as a broadcast channel and reinvent it online.

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.

Speaking at a media briefing following the December 5 submission from the BBC Executive to the Trust proposing the changes, BBC Director-General Tony Hall said that with the licence fee frozen, the BBC needed to make difficult decisions, “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,” he declared, suggesting that the ‘new’ BBC Three would be a “pathfinder’ for other BBC services in the new on-demand, multiplatform age. “Our learnings will help form a new strategic direction,” he suggested.

“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,” he said.

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.

Danny Cohen, BBC Director of Television, said that as a former BBC Three Controller, the decision to move online wasn’t an easy one.

“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,” he declared, adding that BBC and its services now existed in a hybrid consumption world. “We’ve got to be good at all of them,” he stated.

According to Damian Kavanagh, BBC Three Proposal Lead, it had 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 percent 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,” he noted.

Kavanagh accepted that to maintain quality at BBC One and BBC Two – which are watched by young audiences in the millions, the BBC 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 that’s not good for audiences. New BBC Three would allow us to do fewer shows, but bigger, better and in greater depth.

He suggested that the service would be where young audiences are. “At the centre would be a dedicated home online, available on multiple devices, that pull all the long form and digital content together,” he advised, adding that short form and digital content would be on social media platforms such as Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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