BBC Three return gets the go-ahead

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has approved the return of BBC Three as a broadcast channel.

The youth-focused channel will return to screens in February 2022 and will be available on Freeview, Sky, Virgin and Freesat with EPG numbers to be confirmed at a later date.

“I’m thrilled that Ofcom have now confirmed that BBC Three will be returning to TV screens next year. This is a big moment, with the new channel providing a destination for young audiences to discover more content on the BBC. We will work hand in hand with iPlayer to provide a broad offering that is representative of the whole of the UK and we will continue to back new talent and bold ideas.

“This approach will bring the audience a distinctive mix of programmes that are there to entertain, inspire and challenge thinking, at a pivotal and exciting time to be young in the UK.” – Fiona Campbell, Controller BBC Three

In light of the channel’s approval, the BBC and Pact have agreed a new Terms of Trade deal for television productions made by independent producers, which the Beeb notes provides more value to audiences, ensures a clear framework for producers and provides the BBC with flexibility to have programmes available to watch on both BBC Three and iPlayer.

Details of the terms of trade deal

For BBC Three commissions, the BBC will have a 2 year window on iPlayer plus unlimited transmissions on the BBC Three broadcast channel during the first 18 months. The BBC also has a further 18 transmission days on BBC Three for the remaining 3.5 years of licence included within the initial programme payment to independent producers. For transmissions on other BBC channels, repeats can be purchased separately under existing terms. For iPlayer use beyond the 2 years, a payment of 1% for non-exclusivity and 2% for exclusivity is required for each 12 month extension, and each time the BBC acquires an additional iPlayer window, the initial licence term reduces by 6 months (but can be extended).

Pact’s Director of Business Affairs, Max Rumney, notes that “Our members are pleased to see the return of the linear channel and the opportunities this will bring for producers to showcase the brilliant creativity of the UK independent production sector.”

The BBC announced that it was backtracking on making the channel an online-only service in March, as it conceded that a significant group of younger viewers maintain a strong linear TV habit.

Highlighting hits such as Killing Eve, Fleabag and Normal People, the corporation said it was keen to bring them to a wider audience by utilising a broadcast channel as well as iPlayer.

CBBC will revert to closing at 7pm with BBC Three occupying a place on air between 7pm-4am each day, however pre-watershed content (suitable for 13+) on BBC Three will offset the hours CBBC is losing.

The channel’s return will ‘increase the diversity and creativity’ of the BBC’s output, while at least two thirds of its programme spend will be outside of London and across the UK.

BBC Three was launched in 2003 – the successor of BBC Choice – and was moved online in February 2016.

“This new deal is great news for both the BBC and independent producers, and we are really pleased to have concluded this in good time for launch. It provides the channel with the flexibility to ensure its programmes deliver real value to audiences however they wish to view the content, as well as recognition of success for producers.” – BBC’s Commercial, Rights & Business Affairs Director, Jo Korn

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