The BBC’s decision to take BBC Three off the air and make it an iPlayer-exclusive channel reportedly cost it almost 90% of its viewership.
According to a new study from Enders Analysis found that while switching off the linear channel has saved the broadcaster £30 million a year, the digital-only strategy has not been popular with viewers.
The report said that viewing of BBC Three content was down 72% – though this includes programmes shown on other linear TV channels such as hit dramedy Fleabag which made the jump from BBC Three to BBC Two, and fan favourite thriller Killing Eve.
BBC Three exclusive content has fared less well, with viewing down 89% when compared to the 12 months prior to the shutdown.
The research notes that “despite numerous examples of critical acclaim for BBC Three programming over the last couple of years, the evidence suggests that its audience has collapsed since the closure of its linear TV channel in 2016”.
Though skewing towards typically cord-cutting millennials, the report also suggests that a return to linear TV may save the evidently struggling network: “Not only has the time spent with the channel been hugely reduced, but most (79%) of the online viewing is still via television sets. The size of BBC Three’s weekly and monthly audience, in common with most of its competitor TV channels, was declining before it reinvented itself online.”
A potential return to the EPG is something that the channel’s controller, Fiona Campbell, said would be on the list of decisions for new director general Tim Davie. Davie is said to be considering the move following the international success of a number of BBC Three’s original shows such as 2020’s breakout hit Normal People.
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