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BBC Three closure branded a ‘disaster’

BBC Three identThe closure of the BBC Three linear channel in the UK is “a disaster disguised as a pioneering strategic initiative”, according to an influential media analyst at research house Ovum.

In a blog post entitled ‘Why the BBC is wrong about kids and TV’, Ovum’s digital media practice leader Nick Thomas said the decision to move the youth-skewed BBC channel from linear to online was misguided.

“The BBC’s decision to move BBC Three to online-only is a disaster disguised as a pioneering strategic initiative,” Thomas said. “The notion on which it is based – that young audiences do not watch TV – is simply false.”

The Ovum analyst cited figures from UK communications regulator Ofcom that show 16-to-24s still regularly watch linear TV and noted that BBC Three has been the most popular channel among its target audience, but that a large chunk of that audience would fall away with the move to online.

“By removing a whole TV channel’s worth of content, the BBC is failing to serve a crucial part of its current audience, let alone its future audience of license fee payers,” Thomas said.

The UK pubcaster is closing the linear service as part of wide-ranging cost cuts. In agreeing to BBC Three’s move to online the BBC Trust said its long-form programmes must be broadcast in slots on BBC One and Two on an ongoing basis, and the BBC One and Two channels must offer distinctive programmes designed for younger audiences.

Thomas added that as the BBC is moving its key youth brand out of linear and into online, other services such as Vice Media that are targeting this demo are moving into traditional TV with linear channel roll outs.

“Vice is now repackaging its content into a linear TV channel to sit alongside its on-demand content,” said Thomas. “Vice has understood something that apparently has eluded the BBC’s managers: the future of video is not about online or mobile, it is about being on as many channels as possible, including TV.”

This week one of the former staples of the BBC Three schedule, Renegade-produced fact-ent series Don’t Tell the Bride, was snapped up by Sky. The show had already moved to BBC One but will now move to pay TV in the UK.

BBC Three did order a new season of its well-received comedy series Uncle this week, with the new, third, 7x30mins season of the Baby Cow-produced show running on the online service.