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BBC Three returns as a broadcast channel on Feb. 1 with a renewed focus on youth.
“BBC Three was always focused on that under-35 demographic historically, and so that’s definitely a core part of our DNA,” says BBC Three controller Fiona Campbell. “The new iteration of where we’re at creatively – we’re focusing on 25s and under. That’s our creative sweet spot because it’s a very specific stage of life.”
Campbell, speaking at a media round table, added that the commissions for the channel are from across U.K. regions. They include “Conversations With Friends,” another coming-of-age Sally Rooney adaptation after the success of “Normal People”; “Hungry For It,” a food competition format featuring Big Zuu, Stacey Dooley and Kayla Greer; “The Drop,” a streetwear competition with Clara Amfo and Miguel; and vehicle based show “Gassed Up” hosted by Mist.
The channel will also have a week-night bulletin produced by BBC News called “The Catch Up,” presented by new young journalistic talent, with a view to addressing the need for young people to engage with impartial news.
“BBC Three is going to be a noisy channel – hyper-focused on this varied experience of being young in the U.K. today,” says Campbell.
Among other programming, in addition to the previously revealed “RuPaul’s Drag Race: U.K. Versus The World,” there is horror series ”Red Rose,” black comedy drama ”Wrecked,” “Life and Death in the Warehouse,” a factual-based drama exploring working conditions in a distribution centre and “Peacock,” a gym-based comedy series about toxic masculinity.
BBC Three previously operated as a broadcast channel from 2003 to 2016, when it was taken off air and replaced by a digital-only version. The BBC Three annual budget was slashed from £90 million ($120.6 million) in 2014 to £40 million. While investment in BBC Three has now doubled to £80 million, it has yet to reach its 2014 levels. Earlier this month, U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries froze the BBC license fee, the corporation’s primary income source, for two tears, meaning a real-terms income shortfall.
“It’s part of my job to keep putting together the case for further investment – that is on me to make that case and to make it happen and I do feel I am listened to, hence we are where we are today,” says Campbell. The executive added that the channel is putting on a “new layer of audience discovery” and if that does well and promises return on investment, “maybe I’ll have an easy case to make in a month or two.”
Meanwhile, addressing the question of why a return to a linear broadcast channel is necessary, given that the youth, who BBC Three is focused on, usually consume content via streaming, Campbell points to statistics demonstrating that two thirds of 16-34s in the U.K. watched broadcast TV in recent weeks.
“A linear moment really creates a moment of conversation on social [media] that then drives people on to consume it more on [BBC streamer] iPlayer, so it’s like a big circle of consideration and discussion,” says Campbell.