Notes on News: Could BBC Three be coming back onto our TV screens?

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The channel could be changing from online to terrestrial, just years after making its drastic switch to online streaming.

After four years online, BBC Three could be making its return to our TV screens. The channel originally moved to its current online platform BBC iPlayer in 2016, after viewing figures drop to an all-time low, to allow the BBC to manage their budget and focus on its more prominent sister channels. Since its move from terrestrial to online, the channel has grown substantially due to its commissions of critically acclaimed shows such as Fleabag (2016) and the recent novel-to-screen adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People (2020). The channel’s current notability proves its place amongst BBCs other channels, however, in our progressively online world of social media and streaming services, could this move to terrestrial television be a risky regression for the channel?

With the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Videoboasting incredibly high numbers of subscribers to their streaming services in recent years, it is surprising to see the BBC considering a move from online to terrestrial television for their channel BBC Three. Over the past few years as an online channel, BBC Three has released a string of highly successful television shows, most notably the action-packed comedy-thriller Killing Eve (2018-).  Since the original broadcast of the first season of Killing Eve, the show has had an overwhelming deal of success, which has even resulted in three seasons being both commissioned and released within the space of 2 years – an outcome which not many television shows can show for themselves. The show not only received an abundance of critical acclaim but alongside this amassed a peak of 1.3 million viewers for the finale episode of its first season.

As well as the breadth of fictional television shows released by BBC Three, the channel has also commissioned and released a wide range of documentaries, many of which have received a high level of praise and viewing figures. The most recent success came in the form of the hard-hitting documentary by Little Mix singer-songwriter Jesy Nelson entitled Jesy Nelson: ‘Odd One Out’ (2019). The documentary not only gained the attention of Nelson’s fans but became widely known amongst many as the musician spoke out about the drastic effect that cyberbullies had on her mental health, raising important questions on the impact of social media. Documentaries such as this have helped BBC Three develop as an online streaming service that not only provides a wide range of entertainment shows, but also an important platform for current social and political issues to be explored and understood.

Could moving back to terrestrial television mean that BBC Three may lose not only its edge and unique nature but also its young viewers? It is clear, in our world of online streaming and social media, that content has become increasingly consumed through online platforms due to their accessibility and ability to pick and chose. Subsequently, it could be argued that although the BBC believes they may be able to double their demographics through this transition from online to terrestrial, a drop in viewing figures could occur through this lack of accessibility and ‘choosability’.

Through the current Coronavirus pandemic that has hit the world, figures are showing an unbelievable increase in online streaming. Will the BBC’s plans for BBC Three progress and how will the channel change as a consequence of this transition?

Watch the trailer for BBC Three’s latest triumph, Normal People, below:

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