BBC3 launches as an online channel next week – but even before it embraces the brave new world of the web, consideration is being given to merging it with other BBC platforms including Radio 1 to create a Youth division, RadioTimes.com understands.
According to sources, the option that is under serious consideration at the top level of the BBC would potentially put the channel in the hands of one person who also oversees Radio 1.
The plans, which are at the ideas stage but are said to be being “seriously considered” by BBC strategists, are only likely to be implemented if the online BBC3 fails to get “sufficient traction”, according to Corporation sources.
Radio 1 has boosted its profile with more video content in recent months and the thinking of some senior figures at the BBC is that the two would make a perfect fit.
Already the station has a large online following, with video showcasing high profile set pieces, such as Nick Grimshaw’s recent interview with Ryan Reynolds and Jack Black. Radio 1 also hosts live performances in its Live Lounge.
If the ideas, which have not been finalised or approved, are given the go ahead, then the two would be headed by a controller of Youth.
“Radio 1 and BBC3 essentially cater for the same audiences,” said a source. “So it makes perfect sense.”
BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh told RadioTimes.com that he was unaware of the idea of merging BBC3 with Radio 1 but admitted that lots of plans were being discussed at the top level of the BBC.
“I have heard about many, many, many different propositions. I think charter renewal and the whole process is happening at the moment and there are a lot of ideas in play. I haven’t been presented with anything that is set in stone but there are a lot of conversations going on.”
But Kavanagh said he would be opposed to the idea of a merger. “I think [BBC3] is a really powerful youth brand with 13 years heritage and I wouldn’t see the logic in winding down something that has that audience, and has that badge of quality, and has that heritage of investing in new talent [in something] that is just called ‘Youth’.
“I don’t believe audiences consume in that way, I don’t think because something is badged ‘Youth’, audiences will just come to it. They come to different parts of the BBC for different content.”
However, Kavanagh said BBC3 already collaborates with Radio 1 and that this would continue.
“I have been head down concentrating on this [launching BBC3 online]. I believe in collaboration. However I believe each of the services are different propositions. Radio 1 does something quite different to what BBC3 does. We all have to make sure we have our own area and when we are talking to the same audiences on different things, to put those dots together would make a lot of sense.
“I don’t know and I have not heard of a plan of BBC3 being wound up in a year’s time. BBC3 has been moved online to reach audiences in different ways and be a pathfinder for the BBC and that is going to continue for years and years and years.”
Asked if we would be interested in a head of youth job if it came up he said: “BBC3 is a big beast to run. I am enjoying it. We have a lot of stuff in the pipeline. And to be honest with you I am very excited and I think I have one of the most exciting jobs at the BBC at the moment and I’m quite happy doing it.”
Kavanagh added that he expected BBC3 to still exist as a standalone online brand by the end of year.
“It’s a first. We are going to constantly re-iterate. What I hope by the end of the year is we have stuff that we are really proud of and resonates with the audience.
“What we have got to get better at is get across everything we do. We have got to get good at this and things like how we release content, how it fits together and complements each other. The nice thing is we can learn really quickly and change tack really quickly.”
The new BBC3 will go online-only on 16th February and will continue to target 16-34 year-olds.
It will consist of two new platforms, the Daily Drop providing content including short films, articles and news and sport updates and The Best Of, bringing together new shows, long and short.
The budget of the channel is £30m with around £10m spent on comedy, £10m on serious factual, £3m for drama and the rest on new forms of content.