BBC Three set to return to screens in 2022

BBC Three is going back on air! Are you excited, or does it seem like a step backwards for the channel?

Eleanor McGreevy
8th March 2021
Credit: IMDb, Steve Schofield, BBC, Wikimedia Commons.
It's official: BBC Three is to return as a linear channel following increased pressure from regulator Ofcom to prove the BBC are still providing entertainment for younger viewers. 

The channel is set to return to air in 2022 and will run from 7pm to 4am daily, aiming to attract both Generation Z and Millennial viewers. The introduction of the new BBC Three will mean cutting CBBC airtime, as the new channel aims to provide pre-watershed content for younger teens. 

Daytime TV could be more interesting with a Sun...Sex & Suspicious Parents reboot. Credit: IMDb.

BBC Three was originally taken off air in March 2016, putting an end to iconic shows like Snog Marry Avoid? and Sun... Sex & Suspicious Parents, both of which could now potentially see a 2022 reboot. The corporation said moving BBC Three online to target younger audiences would save £30m a year, but much of the budget was instead reallocated to fund drama on BBC One.  

More than doubling to £80 million over the next two years, BBC Three's programme budget will allow it to commission enough programmes to fill a linear schedule whilst maintaining its ethos of championing new voices and young talent.

Bosses clearly think bringing the channel back in linear form will boost the BBC’s overall ratings

Drag Race UK has proved to be popular online. Credit: IMDb.

Given the success of BBC Three show Normal People, which streamed over 62 million times since April 2020, as well as Killing Eve and RuPaul's Drag Race UK, all commissioned whilst the channel was off air, bosses clearly think bringing the channel back in linear form will boost the BBC’s overall ratings. 

Other recent successes commissioned by BBC Three include comedies This Country, The Young Offenders and Fleabag- as well as documentaries Stacey Dooley InvestigatesCanny Cops and Junior Doctors on the Frontline, all of which have been broadcast on BBC One in the slot following the 10pm news since last spring.  

Still, it remains unlikely that the BBC will ever be able to compete with streaming services Netflix and Amazon on content for younger viewers, largely due to available funding. However, by reverting to a linear channel, rather than using the already established online base created by BBC Three, the BBC seems to be stepping back in time rather than embracing the new digital age. 

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