The imminent return of BBC Three as a channel may be good news all round. It’s obviously welcome news for the channel’s target audience of younger viewers.
The challenge for the BBC and other traditional broadcasters reaching young audiences cannot be overstated. But it could be good news for the BBC’s core audience too.
The BBC has to try to serve everyone but from time to time its efforts to reach the people who are hard to reach can risk creating a perception that it is taking its loyal supporters for granted. The BBC Three zone in the late evenings on BBC One risked that.
The aim was clear and laudable: put material aimed squarely at a young audience in a clear, high-profile slot. Many of these programmes – on air and online – did really well amongst younger people.
But there was a downside. Few of them were “crossover hits” which appealed to a wider audience. Some of them would be the last thing typical viewers of the BBC News at Ten might have fancied with their cocoa.
Remember the reasoning for placing the slot on BBC One was at odds with the general nature of the channel. One of BBC One’s most special traits is its ability to bring together wide, diverse audiences.
In the old, pre-multichannel days, of course, anything produced for a niche audience would generally go on BBC Two – like the youth zone DEF II, a scary 30 years ago.
Now it seems the late-night BBC Three zone on One is being dropped or seriously downgraded. The listings for the next few weeks, including the first week of January, show all sorts of typical BBC One material at 10.35pm.
Much of it is repeats but it will probably get more viewers at 10.35pm than Ru Paul’s Drag Race even if it might have very different demographics.
Hopefully the new BBC Three will be able to act as a launchpad for some programmes which genuinely appeal to a wider audience and deserve a slot on One or Two. In its original guise BBC Three created Torchwood and Little Britain.
But the strategic mistake axing the channel 5 years ago was immense.
Hopefully the new suite of BBC channels will lead to a better service for everyone.
PICTURED: BBC Three Presents sting. COPYRIGHT: BBC.