BBC Three to return to TV screens after Normal People and Fleabag success
BBC Three will return as a broadcast TV channel next year after delivering a string of recent hits such as Normal People, Fleabag and Killing Eve.
The youth-focused channel was made online-only in 2016 as part of a cost-cutting plan by the public service broadcaster.
But after a run of popular shows over the last few years, the BBC said it will bring the channel back on-air in January 2022.
The broadcaster, which has already pledged to double BBC Three’s budget over the next two years, said its research had showed there was demand for the channel from traditional TV audiences.
“BBC Three is a BBC success story, backing creativity, new talent and brave ideas has resulted in hit after hit, from Fleabag and Man Like Mobeen, Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK and Jesy Nelson’s Odd One Out, to Normal People and This Country,” said chief content officer Charlotte Moore.
“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.”
The BBC said the relaunch reflected its efforts to deliver more value to younger audiences and increase the diversity of its outputs.
Media regulator Ofcom has previously warned that the broadcaster was at risk of a “lost generation” as younger audiences increasingly turned to streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
But Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said he questioned whether “putting the clock back five years is the right way to win over 18-35s”.
“The extra investment found to pay for this is also happening at the same time that those over 75 are being chased to pay up for their TV licences,” he added.
The relaunched channel, airing between 7pm and 4am each day, will be targeted at audiences aged 16 to 34.
As a result, CBBC’s broadcast hours will revert to ending at 7pm, as they did before 2016. The channel currently goes off air at 9pm.
Many of BBC Three’s successful commissions in recent years, including Fleabag and Killing Eve, aired in primetime slots on BBC One.
Normal People, the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel, last year became the most popular show in iPlayer’s history with a record 62.7m requests.