BBC Three may be dropped from the airwaves and live on as an iPlayer-only, online channel.
The BBC is expected to formally announce the the decision tomorrow, as part of plans to save £100 million.
The channel has traditionally served as a test bed for emerging comedy writers and performers to debut shows such as Little Britain, Being Human and Gavin and Stacey and in more recent years, reality-based shows such as Don’t Tell The Bride and Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.
In more recent years the BBC piloted more of its comedy content online as iPlayer exclusives in a bid to engage with a younger market and possibly to strengthen the iPlayer brand against on-demand Netflix and
Lovefilm Instant, Prime Instant Video.
As well as this, BBC Three also regularly showcases repeats of EastEnders, which viewers could conceivably enjoy online via BBC iPlayer or the forthcoming BBC One+1 channel. Conceivably airwave space cleared by an exiting BBC Three could be filled by the BBC’s forthcoming timeshift channel. This doesn’t answer the question of where popular non-BBC content such as Family Guy, which isn’t available on iPlayer, would end up.
While moving the channel’s output entirely online would be consistent with this recent approach, the plans will have to be approved by the BBC Trust before such a move could go ahead.
The BBC would have to justify that closing the channel would represent good value for licence fee payers. BBC Three is currently available to virtually everyone via digital terrestrial TV, satellite or cable.
Making the channel online-only means that anyone with a poor broadband connection won’t be able to view content. While the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) programme aims to address the UK’s digital divide, many projects won’t be finished until the end of 2015.
A BBC source talking to trade publication Broadcast said that moving BBC Three online in the near future would be premature, pointing to growth in its share of 16 to 24 year olds in 2013. An unnamed senior industry executive argued that BBC would struggle to connect with younger viewers if they shifted to online-only viewing.
How do you feel about the idea of BBC Three going online-only? Would you still watch it? Would you be able to stream it on your broadband connection? Let us know in the comments below.