After dumping Don’t Tell the Bride can we really trust the BBC’s long-term commitment to youth audiences?

BBC1's affair with BBC3 hit Don't Tell the Bride was a mess – and yet again, young viewers are the ones paying for it

So Don’t Tell the Bride has jumped into bed with Sky, and the BBC has a messy divorce on its hands. Sadly, the story of one of BBC3’s best-loved shows is all too predictable.


Here’s how it goes: an innovative new format is given a shot by an ambitious smaller channel. The relationship blossoms – young love and ‘youth programming’ at its best.

Inevitably, the grown-ups start to envy BBC3’s budding romance, and try to turn Don’t Tell the Bride’s head. BBC3’s moving online anyway, why don’t you stay on TV here with us?

So a new relationship begins. BBC1 insists it loves Don’t Tell the Bride for what it is, but when we next see it, the show’s changed. They messed with the formula, killed the spark that made Don’t Tell the Bride great in the first place.

Ratings dwindle. BBC3 viewers turn off because it’s no longer the show they loved, while BBC1’s audience have yet another reason to think that BBC3 isn’t worth saving.

In the end, when money has to be saved, Don’t Tell the Bride is the obvious show to cut. It’s the minibus to the hen party – someone else can pay for it.

Sky1 are the winners in this sad tale of love and loss: they can promise to take the show ‘back to its roots’, fix BBC1’s mistakes, while buying wholesale a young, fun and valuable group of new viewers.

“We caught the bouquet!” Sky 1’s boss Adam MacDonald tweeted. He’s not wrong.

As for the BBC? Well, it’s another reason to worry that they really haven’t thought through BBC3’s move online properly.

They have promised to show every ‘long form’ show the online channel makes on either BBC1 or BBC2 – but how will BBC3’s on-demand, on-the-edge programming play with terrestrial traditionalists? Will the BBC have to ‘change’ these shows too to make them work for the big channels?

Don’t Tell the Bride’s affair with BBC1 was silly and short-lived. Now BBC1 and BBC2 have to come up with ways to attract young people on their own, or risk losing over half a million viewers for good.


A couple of repurposed BBC3 chat-up lines just won’t cut it.