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BBC to return as a broadcast channel in January 2022

When it returns, BBC Three will be targeted at audiences aged 16-34, broadcasting from 7 PM to 4 AM each day.

BBC has confirmed the return of BBC Three to linear TV grids after a five-year absence and being digital-only in that time.

It follows research published as part of the BBC’s 2020/21 annual plan, which demonstrated there was still an available audience on broadcast television for the youth-skewing channel.

Programmes including Killing Eve, Fleabag and Normal People commissioned by BBC Three have gained a terrestrial audience through BBC One and BBC Two. The BBC now wants to harness younger audiences who spend more time with the BBC than any other brand – but are not tuning to its linear channels.

Commenting about the development, Charlotte Moore, Chief Content Officer, said: “The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programmes reach as many young people as possible wherever they live in the UK. So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC Three its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, groundbreaking content that deserves the widest possible audience and using BBC iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value.”

The BBC proposes to launch Three on linear in January 2022 and adapt CBBC’s operating hours to make the most value out of the increased content of its commissions. The channel will be targeted at audiences aged 16-34. The new linear channel will broadcast from 7 PM to 4 AM each day, the same as the hours of the channel when it closed in 2016. As a result, CBBC’s broadcast hours will revert to closing at 7 PM – as was the case before 2016. The BBC also intends to expand the remit of BBC Three with a pre-watershed content offer suitable for those over 13+. The corporation stressed that it would not take any further traditional TV channel capacity for services, but reallocate distribution capacity from existing services within the current space.