Advanced Television

BBC Three goes online only

February 16, 2016

By Colin Mann

BBC Three has become the first TV channel in the world to make the switch from linear broadcast channel to online-first destination, broadcasting its final linear programme – an episode of popular comedy Gavin & Stacey – in the early hours of February 16.

The reinvented BBC Three will offer TV shows to stream and download through new home The Best Of and BBC Three on iPlayer, and start publishing a range of daily content through its new, mobile-first platform, The Daily Drop.

All long-form programmes will be available to stream and download through BBC Three’s new home The Best Of and BBC Three on iPlayer on over 10,000 devices, including connected TVs, mobile and tablet apps, browsers, set top boxes, games consoles, media streamers and BBC Red Button+ before airing on BBC One or BBC Two at a later date.

BBC Three will allow the majority of its short form content to be embedded by third parties on their sites so they can include it in its entirety. All BBC Three content in The Best Of and The Daily Drop will be tagged around themed topics, strands, talent names and programme titles to aid discovery and allow audiences to easily discover related content.

All BBC Three originals will be available via and through BBC iPlayer on connected TVs, set-top boxes including Sky, Virgin TiVo and YouView, games consoles including Sony Playstation and Microsoft XBox, web browsers such as Safari and Internet Explorer, native iOS, Windows, Android apps and BBC Red Button+.

All BBC Three originals will be repeated on BBC One or BBC Two at a later date.

BBC Three content will also be available on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and Snapchat.

Christoph Pleitgen, senior vice president, sales and business development, EMEA and APAC, of video creation platform Wochit, described the changeover as “a landmark moment” for traditional broadcasters around the world. Cost saving is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for this decision. “However, it is also a reaction to huge shifts in how audiences, between the ages of 16-34, are choosing to consume media, particularly video. This age group, which is BBC Three’s target audience, now consumes less traditional TV content than ever before with a 19 per cent decline in viewership from 2010-2013 in the youngest bracket. This trend will only continue to grow in the coming years, as the average UK consumer now spends at least five hours a week watching TV, clips and films online,” he noted.

“The BBC’s strategy to capture this audience is clear and Three is in a particularly favourable position to make the online-only transition seamlessly, thanks to its existing 11.2 million-strong viewership. This decision comes at an interesting time as online youth culture publisher, Vice is doing the exact opposite by launching a 24-hour cable TV channel. This shows that major media companies, old and new, are taking significant and varied approaches to keep up with younger audiences and their evolving behaviours.”

Tom Williams, CEO at digital product designer and content delivery expert Ostmodern, disagrees with the recent negative views that BBC Three’s shift to online-only will damage the development of future television audiences and new talent, both on and off screen. What these critics seem to forget is that BBC Three’s audience is not representative of the average TV viewer.”

“The reality is that younger audiences, particularly those in the 16-34 age bracket BBC Three serves, are leaning more and more towards bite-sized on demand content. Today, as the switch is flipped and BBC Three becomes online-only, the broadcaster’s new “Daily Drop” content section will not be pitted against established broadcast channels or VoD services in this regard. Instead, it will be going head-to-head with current heavyweights in the short-form content environment – YouTube and Facebook Video.”

“It’s been suggested around 80 per cent of the 925,000 viewers who watch BBC3, and no other BBC television channel, could desert the corporation following the switch. But our experience is that giving viewers what they want to watch, when and where they want to watch it, drives uptake. The medium is evolving, and BBC3 is making a forwards-looking move with the tide.”

“It’s an approach Channel 4 has taken in the past, albeit on a much smaller scale. The broadcaster took a similar tactic for its All 4 platform, making short-form content available exclusively online and catering it to a younger audience – that same 16-34 age bracket BBC Three is targeting. New online-only content was commissioned as a result and attracted new talent in the process. Evidently the opportunities are still there, even if the delivery medium has changed.”

“In defence of the critics, there’s still a place for linear broadcasting, much in the same way that there’s room for VoD services in the modern TV line-up. Bite-sized content also has a role to play. It’s all entirely dependent on the audience in question. What’s imperative across the board, however, regardless of the delivery medium, is the widespread availability of content across multiple devices and platforms. Also, crucially, helping the viewer discover new content that’s interesting and relevant to them.”

“With this in mind, new approaches to content discovery will become vital in the near-term to help viewers discover what to watch in a world that’s increasingly moving away from traditional broadcast schedules. This will be especially true for the second aspect of BBC Three’s online-only approach – its curated mix of long and short-form content, dubbed ‘The Best Of’.”

“At a time when the BBC’s latest iPlayer performance data reveals the broadcaster saw connected TV and mobile traffic rise, getting the right content in front of the right audience through connected devices will undoubtedly become one of the most important factors to ensure BBC Three’s online-only future is a resounding success.”

“Ultimately, by taking an online-only approach for BBC Three, the BBC will be in an even stronger position than before to identify what’s working and what isn’t. In this regard, the BBC has become the first traditional broadcaster to properly adapt to today’s on demand world.”


“It is tough for all free to air broadcasters as the competitive environment is intensifying,” suggested Paolo Pescatore, Director, Multiplay and Media at CCS Insight. “Budgets are being slashed, they are losing spectrum to mobile operators and of course online video providers continue to make significant strides and investing heavily in most if not all genres.

Ultimately it comes down to content and BBC Three needs to focus on original content which is what it is doing with comedy. It’s all about creating the next biggest blockbuster.

It will not be easy but BBC Three will now have to raise its profile to stand out from the crowd, hence why it is will be important to have a strategy across all social platforms to ensure a deep engagement with users.

Overall, digital offers plentiful opportunities to understand more about users, their attitudes and behaviour. And more importantly digital has a far greater reach than free to air given that people now own more connected devices.”

Categories: Articles, Broadcast, Catch Up, FTA, OTT, Social Media, VOD