Planning to tune into BBC3 on channel 7/107 tonight at 7pm expecting to see women crying into poorly chosen wedding dresses or 6 episodes of Family Guy? You may be somewhat disappointed. A static image is all that will be visible: a memorial to a service that lasted a mere 13 years but provided entertainment, re-runs & documentaries to a young demographic largely unserviced at the turn of the century.
BBC3 has moved over to a web-only channel that has vowed to continue creating new programmes as well as a daily content stream including short films and news. Everything we expect from the original television channel will be included, but without the constraints of traditional programming.
What is clear with such a bold move is that the BBC has a strategy behind this all, and although it may be a budget based push, the recent rebrand and advertising on social media channel Snapchat demonstrate that the BBC is still committed to pushing the brand to the forefront for its intended target audience. Three principles will now underline the channel: ‘make viewers think’, ‘make viewers laugh’, and ‘give young people a voice’. If a move to a digital-only platform doesn’t already prove that these three principles are already being adhered to, then I’m not to sure what does.
Could this experiment, therefore, be something other channels will soon be fighting to emulate with their new brand offerings? For BBC3, with a target audience of 18-25 year olds, this won’t be a giant leap. This audience spends so much time online already through social media channels and streaming videos that an online-only channel may not be deemed as strange as others fear. Millennials account for roughly 5 in every 10 online video views, a sign that in generations with a certain lack of spare time during the working week, moving online could be an ingenius stepping stone. With BBC iPlayer figures suggesting 343 million views for January, BBC3 going digital will only boost these figures.
Moving exclusively online also offers BBC3 another advantage over traditional TV: data tracking. User analytics will allow the BBC to carefully track precisely what content is consumed, at what times and in which locations. This will allow them to carefully curate their content in ways not possible on TV.
We do, however, live in an era saturated with content. YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-34 year-olds than any cable network in the US: both a positive and negative for BBC3’s move. The audience is there and ready to watch, but with so much content online already, can they compete? Only time will tell.
As the final credits rolled early yesterday morning, it was obvious to see an intelligent brand strategy behind the move. RIP BBC3? I’m not so sure.