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Image: BBC

Was moving BBC Three online a bad move?

Back in 2016, BBC3 was moved online due to government-induced budget cuts and in hope of attracting more young viewers. With its re-brand and releasement of hit shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, This Country and Fleabag, I argue that these excellent shows need more advertising, rather than reverting to TV.

The BBC recognised that streaming on demand is becoming the new norm and has allowed the channel to create an original genre of TV. It has a similar feel to Channel 4 and focuses on discussing a broad range of social issues but does so with younger, sometimes less middle-class and more diverse, viewers in mind. Arguably, this makes their TV shows much more accessible and they often fit into the ‘easy to watch’ category which many of us crave on lazy afternoons, whatever our age.

Perhaps BBC3 are ahead of the curve and eventually more and more shows will shift online, especially since they are saving money and can continue to make quality content

Some of my favourite shows, like Stacey Dooley Investigates, Fleabag and This Country, are on BBC3. Thanks to the channel’s significant social media presence, these shows are receiving the exposure they need – I heard about This Country through seeing random clips pop up on Facebook and memes on Twitter, rather than a traditional TV advert. Perhaps BBC3 are ahead of the curve and eventually more and more shows will shift online, especially since they are saving money and can continue to make quality content. Sharon White, the former Ofcom boss, maintains that the move was too early, but I believe this change was genius.

The move online is also satisfying the need for BBC shows to be absorbed by binge culture. It now feels natural for me to search for a new show online instead of scouring the TV guide. I very rarely do so unless I’m at home with my family – since lockdown, I must admit that I am now fully hooked on Coronation Street, which is something I never thought I’d say. Now most of us have smart televisions or access to iPlayer via our televisions, there is no longer a need for shows to be televised as it is so easy to access elsewhere.

However, I can’t help but think that some of the programmes can go unnoticed. With Glow Up, a competition for make-up artists, I only started watching it because I am a big Stacey Dooley fan and she was pushing it via her Instagram page. If I didn’t see her posts, I doubt I would have begun to watch it as I very rarely see it promoted on other platforms, even though it is such a good show. Maybe they rely on the presenters to put their shows out there and hope that popularity spurs from word of mouth. Admittedly, since I have started watching it, I have recommended it to all my friends. Considering this, a friend also recommended This Country to me, which encouraged me even more to view it.

Maybe they rely on the presenters to put their shows out there and hope that popularity spurs from word of mouth

There are discussions around moving it back to television by making budget cuts elsewhere, such as BBC4, but this is unnecessary. The move online saved the BBC3 from being cancelled altogether and allowed for some fantastic, Bafta-winning shows. If there were going to be some adjustments to attract more viewers, there should be more advertising for the range of shows that they offer. Although, shows such as Fleabag and the recent Normal People have proven that word of mouth works – it raked in 38 million requests to view it on iPlayer.

So, now we all have some extra time on our hands, why not explore BBC3 and discover some real hidden gems. I would recommend The Young Offenders, Summer Heights High and Life and Death Row, as well as the shows I’ve previously mentioned.

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