The BBC will today confirm that it is considering reversing a decision to make its youth network BBC Three an online-only service following the runaway success of shows like Fleabag and Normal People.
The British broadcaster will set out its thinking on bringing BBC Three back to television in its annual plan — a document detailing its strategic objectives for the year ahead — after first signaling the idea back in March.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We’d be wrong not to back a service that is doing better than anyone could have ever conceived and reaching a wide audience.
“Our research suggests there is a big available audience on linear television, so we will consider the case for restoring BBC3 as a linear channel as well as an online destination, though no decisions have been taken and this will need to take into account how viewing habits develop during the COVID-19 crisis.”
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At the very least, BBC Three is going to get a budget boost, with its funding set to be doubled from somewhere in the range of £30-40M to £60-80M ($74M-$98).
In an op-ed in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, BBC director general Tony Hall said “strengthening our relationship with young audiences is crucial to the future of public service broadcasting.”
Hall made the call to shift BBC Three online in 2014, sparking a vocal campaign to save the channel before it was ultimately switched off in 2016.
Since then, the BBC has lost 16-34-year-old viewers to Netflix and YouTube, and has been warned by media regulator Ofcom that it may not survive if it fails to regain its young audience.
He is stepping down this summer, meaning a decision to restore BBC Three to television is likely to be left to his successor, who could be announced as early as next month.
Any call to restore BBC Three to television is likely to have an impact on BBC Four, which faces an uncertain future following the departure of its editor Cassian Harrison. Sources told Deadline it could be reduced to a repeats and archive network, or be replaced by BBC Three in some form.
BBC Three is in a confident mood after a string of hits in recent years. Its most recent success, Normal People, racked up 16.2M views in its first seven days, propelling BBC Three to its best-ever week since moving online in 2016. The show now has 38M requests.
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