BBC Three Relaunches as TV Channel Provisionally Approved by U.K. Media Regulator Ofcom

BBC Three, the digital platform behind such global-facing hits as “Fleabag” and “Normal People,” is on track to return to TV screens early next year.

U.K. media regulator Ofcom provisionally approved the return of BBC Three as a channel on Thursday — six months after the transition was first announced by the BBC after months of speculation.

“BBC has proposed to relaunch [BBC Three] as a broadcast channel. We have analyzed this proposal in detail and have provisionally concluded that the public value of BBC Three’s return as a broadcast channel justifies the limited adverse market impact that might arise from it,” said Ofcom in a statement.

The regulator points out that the relaunch “would increase [BBC Three’s] availability and reach to people who don’t currently have access to it. These include people from lower income households and those living outside of London and the south east.”

Ofcom has opened a consultation on its provisional approval of the relaunch that will run until Oct. 14. The regulator expects to publish a final decision by December.

The youth-skewing BBC Three was taken off air in early 2016 and turned into a digital offering that lives on catch-up service iPlayer. However, last year, the BBC confirmed that the brand would come back to TV screens in January 2022, highlighting at the time that research reflected audience demand for the brand as a broadcast channel.

The corporation said that over the next two years, it will double its spend on BBC Three commissions, with its budget rising from around £30-40 million ($36-49 million) to between £60-80 million ($73-98 million).

The relaunched channel will target audiences aged 16-34 while sharing bandwidth with children’s channel CBBC. It will broadcast from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. each day — the same hours the channel held before its closure in 2016. As a result, CBBC’s broadcast hours will revert to closing at 7 p.m., as was the case before 2016. What’s different, however, is that BBC Three will now have a pre-watershed content offer for the 13-plus age group.

In a statement, BBC director general Tim Davie and director of content Charlotte Moore said Ofcom’s provisional approval was “a fantastic vote of confidence in our drive to deliver more value and grow our offer for younger audiences across the U.K.”

“BBC Three is already a huge success, with original hits like ‘This Country,’ ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.,’ ‘Famalam,’ ‘Meet the Khans: Big in Bolton,’ ‘Normal People,’ ‘High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule’ and ‘Angels of the North’ showcasing our commitment to new talent and ideas across genres,” continued the executives.

“We’ve committed to increase our investment in the channel’s programs, which will allow us to deliver even more of our award-winning content and expand our creative partnerships across the U.K. Nations and regions.”

Davie and Moore said the BBC will “now start working through the detail of Ofcom’s findings as we plan for the channel’s broadcast launch in early 2022.”

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