16 April 2021 The Irish Film & Television Network
BBC Three, home of Normal People and The Young Offenders, to return as a broadcast channel in January 2022
03 Mar 2021 : Nathan Griffin
BBC Three
The BBC has confirmed the return of BBC Three to TV screens.

The move is part of our drive to deliver more value to audiences, which was highlighted in the BBC’s Annual Plan 2020/21 published last year, and outlined research that confirmed there remains an available audience on broadcast television for BBC Three.

BBC Three has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success since it was transformed into an online-only channel in 2016, which became exclusively available via the BBC iPlayer. Since ceasing operations as a TV channel, BBC Three has delivering some of the BBC’s biggest performing shows, most recent of which was Element Pictures smash hit Normal People, which broke iPlayer streaming figures last year.

It has also been responsible for other major shows such as Killing Eve and Fleabag, as well as even championing Irish hit-comedy The Young Offenders, which it adapted into a TV series with Vico Films following its Irish box office in 2016.

Element Pictures has also recently revealed that BBC Three will feature their next Sally Rooney adaption of Conversations with Friends, which is being directed by Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson. The show is expected to follow a similar 12-part drama to Normal People, and will premiere on BBC Three, BBC One, and Hulu next year.

The BBC has said it has committed to doubling the investment on BBC Three commissions over the next two years, as it wants to showcase its impressive content pool to a wider audience. Using both a broadcast channel and BBC iPlayer in tandem, the BBC hope it will help to grow its offer and deliver more value to younger audiences.

“BBC Three is a BBC success story, backing creativity, new talent, and brave ideas has resulted in hit after hit, from Fleabag, Man Like Mobeen, Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, and Jesy Nelson’s Odd One Out, to Normal People and This Country,” said Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer.

"The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programmes reach as many young people as possible wherever they live in the UK. So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC Three its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, ground-breaking content that deserves the widest possible audience and using BBC iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value.”

It is also hoped that a linear BBC Three channel will do more for diverse, underserved audiences across the UK. These include minority ethnic backgrounds, lower socio-economic groups, often in the north of England, and often with less access to digital on-demand services. 

As such, the BBC aims for at least two-thirds of the expanded BBC Three’s programme spend to be outside of London and across the UK. It has also been confirmed that the BBC Three will also build on its ongoing partnerships with Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland and Creative Wales. 

The proposed re-launch of the BBC Three TV channel is expected in January 2022 and will also see the CBBC adapt its operating hours to make the most value out of the increased content the BBC commissions . 

Ofcom has charged the BBC with doing more to reach young people. The channel will be targeted at audiences aged 16-34. The new channel will broadcast from 7pm to 4am each day, the same as the hours of the channel when it closed in 2016. 

As a result CBBC’s broadcast hours will revert to closing at 7pm - as was the case before 2016. As a result, the BBC intends to expand the remit of BBC Three with a pre-watershed content offer suitable for 13+. Importantly, the BBC will not take any further traditional TV channel capacity for its services, but reallocate distribution capacity from its existing services within the current space.

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