The BBC is considering returning iPlayer-only service, BBC3, to its linear line up and hopes to double the spend on the channel’s commissions over the next two years.

The BBC revealed the move in its Annual Plan published today. In it, the corporation said it would “step up our commitment to better serve young audiences who currently get less value from the BBC.  BBC Three has been a hit machine.  Such is its performance, we will consider the merit of restoring it as a linear channel. While young people would continue to predominately watch BBC Three content online, we believe that with the depth of content we now have available, there are still more people we could reach through a linear channel.

“While we cannot know our full financial picture, we also hope to double the amount we spend on BBC Three commissions over the next two years.  This money would have to be found from elsewhere in BBC content budgets.”

BBC Three has delivered some of the BBC’s biggest performing programmes in recent time, with Normal People now having more than 38m requests to watch it on BBC iPlayer.

The Annual Plan also set out the BBC’s performance during the pandemic stating that 94% of the UK adult population – and 86% of younger people – have turned to the BBC in some weeks, “with the vast majority rating the BBC’s response highly and official figures showing it remains by far the most trusted source of news.”

The Plan also stated that during lockdown, viewing of BBC TV has been nearly 50% higher than last year in some weeks, while viewing figures for TV news have hit their highest levels since 2003 and that 77% of the public think the BBC is “currently effective at the moment in informing, educating and entertaining the UK, with a similar percentage for young adults.”

Sir David Clementi, BBC Chairman, said: “Like many organisations, the BBC faces some very real financial challenges in the year ahead, but I am delighted that our services are performing so strongly and making a real difference to the public during a challenging time. I am proud of the job the BBC has done informing, educating and entertaining the UK at this unprecedented time and the response from audiences has been humbling. I would like to thank our staff for their performance and for everything they have done.”

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, said: “The pandemic has had far reaching consequences for most organisations. The BBC is no different. In our response, we have always tried to put the public first and deliver our public service remit in its truest sense. The response from audiences has been remarkable.

“We have seen a huge leap in the usage of our services, particularly among young people. The digital improvements we’ve made over the past year mean the BBC is well placed to embrace the future. We can now give audiences the BBC they want – a better iPlayer with more quality programmes available for longer, and a BBC Sounds that is innovating and performing.

“No organisation from the smallest shop to the largest multinational will be unchanged by this pandemic, but I believe this is a moment where the BBC can do more than ever for the UK and help us out of this crisis.

“None of us have all the answers today. But I honestly believe that the BBC has demonstrated its unique value to the country, and future change – in whatever form – should always be guided by the values and principles that founded the BBC. They have more than stood the test of time.”

The annual plan is available here:http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/reports/annualplan/annual-plan-2020-21.pdf

Jon Creamer