The BBC today confirmed plans to close BBC Three as a traditional broadcast TV channel in Autumn 2015. The announcement comes after news leaked out yesterday that plans were a foot to shutter BBC Three as a traditional channel and instead move its content online.
The plans, which would require approval from Lord Patten and the BBC Trust, would see BBC Three Online launch in 2015, following the closure of the regular broadcast channel. The plans would see the BBC Three Online service’s content budget set at £25 million, down from both the current level of £90 million and the previously forecast budget of £75 million for 2015-2016. As such, the move will save the BBC some £50 million, £30 million of which will be reinvested into BBC One’s drama budget.
Despite the reduced budget for BBC Three Online, the BBC said that they expect to continue producing new UK comedy, current affairs and documentaries geared for younger audiences. In addition to airing on BBC Three Online, all BBC Three commissions will get a linear broadcast on either BBC One or BBC Two.
That said it is understood that acquisitions such as Family Guy, Wilfred and Orphan Black would not be a priority and are thus unlikely to continue on the newly launched online version of BBC Three. Also of note is that the BBC will use the freed-up spectrum to extend CBBC by an hour a night and to provide a BBC One+1 service.
Initially launched under then Controller Stuart Murphy (who now serves as head of BSkyB’s Entertainment Channels) in 2003, BBC Three was geared at a youth audience, specifically at 16-34 year olds. Amongst its direct competitors, namely E4 and ITV2, BBC Three is the highest rated, achieving an audience share of 7.7% in 2013.