BBC3 mid-evening factual favourites such as Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents and Don’t Tell the Bride are poised to disappear as the channel faces up to its future as an online-only proposition.
Instead, BBC3 will follow the maxims “Make me laugh” and “Make me think” by focusing on comedy and serious factual programmes when it ceases as a broadcast channel next autumn.
“Make me think” offerings will be based around documentary, current affairs, news and drama, while “Make me laugh” shows will focus on scripted comedy like previous successes Gavin and Stacey and Bluestone 42.
But according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen, this will mean calling time on the sort of factual entertainment shows the channel has become known for, such as Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, in which teenagers take their first holiday abroad while secretly observed by their mums and dads, and Don’t Tell the Bride, where a groom arranges his wedding without any input from his future wife.
Cohen said today at a press briefing outlining the proposed changes: “We will be making a lot less of shows that fill the mid-evening schedule, shows that I really like, some of which I commissioned, those features and format shows that did a great job, helped to build our schedule, but in a world of tough choices we will focus on the comedy and serious factual and make less of those features and formats. That’s where we find the saving.”
Today the channel confirmed that its budget will shrink from the current figure of £55m spent on programming to £30m when it goes online, subject to approval by the BBC Trust, next autumn.
“We don’t have to fill a schedule every night so we will be making less and we have to ask what shall we prioritise,” added Cohen. “The things that audiences have told us about the things that matter most to us on BBC3 are comedy and forceful strong factual programming.”
The BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, said the decision to axe the channel was the most difficult he’d had to make since he took the job last year, but added that the move was driven in large part by a need to save money while avoiding a reduction in drama spend across the BBC to “levels I would find unacceptable”.
Under the current proposals, most of BBC3’s programmes will be housed on its own web-site which will provide a “feed” of around 15 BBC3 shows that viewers can download and which will be updated daily.
Trails and short clips on social media platforms like Twitter will seek to drive viewers to the BBC3 website, while others, such as Tumblr, will be used to provide more background on shows and help viewers “shape” the new site.
“In essence we are moving from nine hours a day to 24 hours a day – a 24/7 proposition,” said Damian Kavanagh, who is orchestrating BBC3’s move online. He said that the proposals had followed months of consulting thousands of people about how they watched TV.
“We haven’t just made it up,” he said, adding that the plans were in part a response to the changing digital environment. “And let’s be frank, it’s also down to the money.”
Kavanagh said the new service would be “of the digital world not just in it”.