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BBC Three moves online-only as broadcaster embraces digital audience

The BBC channel aimed at younger viewers, BBC Three, broadcast its last night as a TV channel before moving to online-only viewing

BBC Three will only distribute content online, after broadcasting its last night as a TV channel.

Content from BBC Three will be available on YouTube, social media and the BBC iPlayer. Users can interact through various social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

Since the target audience of BBC Three is mainly 16 to 24-year-olds, the BBC Trust claimed the digital format would appeal to the younger generation who, it said, are “watching less linear TV”.

Tom Williams, CEO at firm Ostmodern – which has worked on the UX and UI design for All 4 as well as ITV Player – claimed the move could prove an opportunity for the channel to develop its viewership, as it will no longer compete with traditional broadcasters for timeslots.

“What critics seem to forget is that BBC Three’s audience is not representative of the average TV viewer,” Williams said.

“The reality is that younger audiences – particularly those in the 16-34 age bracket BBC3 serves – are leaning more towards bite-sized, on-demand content.”

The broadcaster originally announced the move of BBC from television to a digital-only platform in 2014. The online-only platform was originally intended to launch in Autumn 2015.

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BBC Three predicts bigger audience

BBC Three is launching content in the form of a number of short and hard-hitting documentary style pieces which better fit its YouTube format. Viewers can find BBC Three animations, programmes and short films through the BBC website and BBC iPlayer.

Full boxsets of some BBC Three shows will be made available on demand, mirroring the service offered by many other TV channels who have embraced a more flexible and digital audience.

But although many have claimed the move to online-only will cause a drop off in the channel’s audience, Williams argues this is not the case.

“It’s been suggested around 80% of the 925,000 viewers who watch BBC Three – and no other BBC television channel – could desert the corporation following the switch. But our experience is that giving viewers what they want to watch, when and where they want to watch it, drives uptake.

"The medium is evolving, and BBC Three is making a forwards-looking move with the tide.” 

Digital plan for streaming platform

The move forms part of the digital transformation plan the broadcaster is undertaking to cut costs. BBC Director General Tony Hall claimed the BBC Three strategy will save the firm £30m.

In September 2015, Hall proposed the BBC should transform into an “open platform” for nurturing UK talent and making content easier to consume in the internet age.

Part of this transformation would include adapting the way news is delivered from a “rolling” platform to a “streaming” platform, and creating partnerships with other trusted news suppliers to ensure the BBC could carry on being a trusted provider of information in the digital world.

But the acceptance of this need for digital transformation has been a long time coming after 360 jobs were cut in 2011 after the BBC slashed its budget for online development.

The transformation was set in motion after the broadcaster pointed the finger at its online iPlayer offering for causing a drop in traditional TV viewing habits and a fall in license payer fees. 

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