Whichever way you dress it up the BBC will as of the autumn of 2015 be down one broadcast channel. The possible closure of BBC Three gained ground over the last couple of weeks as it became clear that salarmi slicing a series of activities was not an option that director-general Tony Hall was willing to consider.
In these days of several hundred channels, stations come and go with alarming regularity, but the BBC? This isn’t the first time that the BBC has actually closed a digital service. Before BBC Three and BBC Four were BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge.
Back in 2003 the issue with the former channels was that they had simply got the proposition wrong. This is far from the case with BBC Three, which has successfully acted as an incubator to a number of hit shows, including Gavin & Stacey and Little Britain.
It seems a little unfair on the viewers that have upgraded to digital television receivers to lose one of the channels run by the public service broadcaster charged with encouraging them to do so in the first place. That’s showbiz.
Transmission costs will be saved across satellite, DTT and cable, though there will be expenditure through the launch of the new timeshifted BBC One +1 hour, and it will not have escaped your notice that there is also the accommodation of CBeebies that shares BBC Three’s frequencies during the day.
Having remembered Guy Bisson’s IHS chart on the point where online distribution becomes uneconomic, the thought crossed my mind that the BBC could end up spending more than it saves if BBC Three maintains its popularity.
In moving BBC Three online the BBC has flagged up the trend among the young towards catch-up TV – even if the relatively young director of television Danny Cohen would have preferred to leave the shift for another four years.
The BBC has already been experimenting with premiering shows on the internet, Sky has made a similar play, allowing viewers to watch first episodes of new series. Instead of floating freely around the iPlayer it would make sense to bring them together under one roof, presumably that will be BBC Three, though there are several months to wait.
As an aside you’ll recall that last week Lord Hall was suggesting that all online viewing be brought under the BBC licence fee.
What other announcements might we see? A BBC Three app? There’s one for BBC News and BBC Sport and what association with the recently announced video version of Radio 1 that will target the demographic.
There will also be news of the BBC’s distribution review; can the BBC justify a Scottish Gaelic service and a Cambridge regional news feed on satellite?