We’ve hoped for a while that murmurs of BBC Three moving online would come to nothing. A lot are snotty about BBC Three and question why we need it, but those people are missing the point of the channel completely. We at the CustardTV are really saddened by the decision the BBC Trust has confirmed today saying that the channel will move online as early as February next year. Current BBC Three controller Damien Kavanagh has insisted in a new BBC blog that the move hails ‘exciting times’ for the channel, but we question whether the move will just mean a dumbbing down of the channels flagship documentary series and bold comedy.
The blog from BBC Blogs reads as follows:
Today is just the beginning for BBC Three and our plans to transform our offer for young people. Technology has changed and what young people want has changed so we are changing to give young people a BBC Three that fits their lives today and in the future. We will now set about launching a digital first BBC Three in early 2016.
When BBC Three launched in February 2003 YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Sky+, Tinder, Chip and pin, Periscope, One Direction and Oculus didn’t exist. Nobody had Wi-Fi, broadband, flat screen TVs or tablets. The Nokia 1100 was the world’s bestselling phone.
Today, over 50% of video viewed by 16-24 year olds is not live TV and over 90% of 16-24s own a smartphone and have at least one social media account. In 2003 it was 0%. To offer young people what they want we had to adapt.
Much has been written since we outlined our plans last December with passionate campaigns from industry and audiences. There has also been misunderstanding so I want to set out clearly what we are doing so there is no confusion.
BBC Three is not closing, we are reinventing online. We will not be a scheduled 7pm to 4am linear broadcast TV channel but we will be everywhere else giving you the freedom to choose what to watch when you want. We will be available on BBC iPlayer on connected TV’s and via set top boxes and consoles like the PS4 so you can watch on a big TV with friends, if you want. We will be on mobiles and tablets so you can watch on your own in the bath, if you want. The truth is we will be available to you in more places than ever before including linear TV. All our shows will be on BBC One or BBC Two so you can watch on traditional TV, if you want.
Creatively we are in great shape. Our Under The Skin and Breaking The Mould seasons have received critical acclaim from audiences and media. Teachers are showing Professor Green’s film on male suicide in schools and we have had similar requests from organisations that want to include Is This Rape? as part of training programmes. We’ve also had an incredible response to our new shows like Asian Provocateur, Josh and Murder In Succesville.
We have overhauled what we make to fulfil what young people told us they wanted – content that makes them think, makes them laugh and gives them a voice.
We will continue to make award winning comedy, drama and documentaries like Murdered By My Boyfriend, Gavin & Stacey and Life And Death Row, and already have lots planned for 2016including new PJDN, new Murder In Succesville, new Doctor Who spinoff Class, newMurdered By My Father, new drama Thirteen, new drama doc Murder Games, and lots more besides. We have just announced Live From The BBC – our showcase for new British stand-up which confirms us as the home of original British comedy.
But new BBC Three will be much more than long form TV. In early 2016 we will launch new destinations online that will for the first time offer daily content from BBC Three.
It’s this commitment to new form content and how we deliver it that is most exciting. We will spend 80% of our budget on long form TV such as drama like our forthcoming Thirteen and our range of comedy and entertainment like Josh and People Just DO Nothing and documentaries like BAFTA winning Life and Death Row, but we will now spend 20% on new form content. Split between our editorial pillars this will include short form video, picture led stories, animation, authored pieces, basically any way we can tell a story most effectively for our audience. We will no longer be limited to traditional TV.
Some will relate to long form like this #threebrief with Professor Green that had over 1.2m views in two days. Some will be reactive like this quick turnaround parody of the John Lewis’ ad that had 1.8m views in just a few hours.
Some will be standalone. We will launch new content strands centred on topics that matter to young people like relationships, online life, crime and health. These are in development but we will issue a detailed brief to independent production companies very soon detailing what we are looking for and how to pitch ideas.
But most importantly we will put young people at the heart of new BBC Three making them part of decision making, giving them a voice and a say in what we do.
We can now offer opportunities to a wider range of talent because we have space to experiment with a wider range of content ideas in different formats and lengths. We can offer new talent greater exposure because all long form will be on BBC One and BBC Two. And we can for the first time offer a broader range of talent who don’t make traditional TV another place to tell their stories.
We will also recruit a group of young people to work with us to test our ideas and create content in collaborative ways. This group will consist of unheard voices and digital creatives who can create content that relates to their lives and the issues that matter to them. We will be launching a recruitment campaign very soon. Watch this space.
The BBC Trust’s conclusion that there is clear public value in reinventing BBC three is just the start for us. I want new BBC Three, like BBC iPlayer and News Online before it, to be the next example of innovation from the BBC. I want BBC Three to meet the needs of young people today and in the future and I want the people who love BBC Three as much as I do to get behind us, audiences and industry alike, to create something unique, distinctive and truly innovative.
These are exciting times for BBC Three.
Damian Kavanagh is Controller, BBC Three.
We’ll keep you up to date with all the news as we say goodbye to BBC Three.