Posted by Chris Martin 12 March 2014
The BBC should leave BBC Three exactly where it is
The BBC has announced plans to move BBC Three online-only next year but I don't think it's the right decision.
Last week, The BBC sparked controversy when it announced that BBC Three is to be axed and moved online. Soon enough #SaveBBC3 was trending on Twitter and I agree with the campaign, on the most part.
Online streaming and on-demand content is the future of broadcasting but is moving BBC Three to iPlayer next year actually a good move for Aunty Beeb? I think not. (For more see: BBC Three to be pulled but live on as online channel on iPlayer.)
BBC Three has been the launch pad for many hit, even cult, shows and careers – Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey, Him and Her and The Mighty Boosh to name just a few. It's not all fun and games either, with some gripping and serious documentaries such as Our War and Growing Up With Down's.
All this has meant a loyal following of young people. We're talking 16-34 year-olds for whom the BBC's other channels don't really cater on a daily basis. If they aren't already, these are the licence-fee payers of the future so surely their loyalty is valuable? If BBC Three isn't on the TV then they won't have much reason to pay.
BBC Three's audience is arguably the easiest to move online since they are the 'digital' generation, online more than any other. However, the experience is, I feel, going to suffer and the BBC will have a much harder job selling BBC Three than it does now.
Netflix is an online-only service but has been successful with exclusive content such as House of Cards. I think the BBC will struggle to make the same success with a move like this.
iPlayer's growth has been massive since launching a few years ago. It now gets more than 10 million requests per day but the vast majority of those are catch-up. It's easy to know you missed something on TV but if content is online-only then it will receive a lot less interest. I'm sure the BBC is planning to advertise the BBC Three shows when they are online only but I can only see the audience shrinking.
Remember, people of this age are the ones getting a kick out of socially engaging with TV programmes when they are live – mainly on Twitter. How is that going to work when BBC Three is purely online and everyone watches at different times?
Of course, the BBC needs to save money (not all of its funding comes from licence payers) but why BBC Three? It seems strange that with the spare spectrum to be used to extend CBBC by an hour each day, and to launch BBC One +1 – both of which seem pretty unnecessary to me.
An interesting fact I spotted online the other day is that if the BBC increased the licence fee by just £2 a year (a small percentage), then it would make-up that £100 million it's trying to save without axing anything.
Hopefully the BBC Trust (which represents the best interests of licence fee payers) will refuse to authorise the move.