Is it time for the BBC to reassert the primacy of BBC One?
It should not need to be said. It is the corporation’s flagship service for all of us and for many of those who are light BBC viewers it IS the BBC.
But BBC marketing can increasingly give the impression that the iPlayer matters more.
If you heard radio trails yesterday morning for last night’s episode of Doctor Who one key phrase was missing: “Tonight at 6.30 on BBC One.” Instead the iPlayer was promoted.
For anyone living in the parallel universe where BBC One is just a legacy service, the overnight ratings will have been a shock. An impressive 5.1m people tuned in to watch.
It’s safe to say that the final total will be significantly higher once iPlayer hits are included. But it’s also safe to say that many of those who watch on iPlayer will either have been out last night or only decided to watch later after hearing good reviews.
In other words, for a channel like BBC One there should be no sense of a fundamental historic shift – just an evolution. Live viewing and catch up can work positively together to ensure good programmes reach as many people as possible.
There is no doubt, of course, that many people enjoy watching box sets. But I would suggest the habit of dropping entire series on the iPlayer ahead of screenings on a linear service can often be counterproductive.
What’s wrong with saying “new episodes drop every Sunday at nine”? Over the space of a few weeks the box set will then build up.
There can even be compromises.
The new series of the thriller Vigil begins soon. The six episodes will be shown across two weeks on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.
The series will drop on iPlayer in two batches – the first three episodes will appear on iPlayer on the first Sunday with the second three becoming available seven days later.
The simple truth is that BBC One should be the home of big premieres – they bring people together and, even today, the glow of one big/special programme can reflect on others.
There may be a case for a slight tweak to BBC One’s remit though. Should there be an even greater emphasis on live broadcasting and flagship brands?
It was interesting that BBC Sport confirmed this week that some Women’s World Cup games had been shown on One in the full knowledge that the channel’s headline ratings might suffer.
Instead they wanted to send out a statement about parity of esteem with men’s football. This would not have happened if the games were on another channel.
I also wonder if some more of the flagship brands on BBC Two need promotion to the main channel where they could fill some weak slots.
For instance, the main Mastermind series and University Challenge could easily move across. It was a surprising but welcome move to see the gentle Scottish comedy Two Doors Down jump to the main channel last week.
With slots freed up, BBC Two could then regain an even clearer sense of its old role as a home to innovation and special tastes and interests – surely no bad thing if BBC Four does go online only at some point?
But in the short term, here’s a very clear message to BBC marketing.
Please, never run a trail again which fails to mention the time of a programme on BBC One.
PICTURED: BBC One ident. COPYRIGHT: BBC.