BBC outlines plans to save US$1.3B, revamps BBC4 commissioning strategy

The BBC outlined further plans to reshape its linear portfolio — including its commissioning approach at BBC4 –  in its annual report as the UK pubcaster looks to save £950 ...
March 30, 2021

The BBC outlined further plans to reshape its linear portfolio — including its commissioning approach at BBC4 –  in its annual report as the UK pubcaster looks to save £950 million (US$1.3 million) in the next year.

Those plans include expanding the reach of arts and music programming on BBC iPlayer by commissioning fewer, bigger titles of higher quality and more “series of scale” – a move that will “necessitate a shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower cost programs” on BBC4.

Instead, BBC4 will become the home of content from across the pubcaster’s archive, building on the channel’s current archive content slate which already comprises 76% of its broadcast hours and 69% of its broadcast viewing hours.

Other changes laid out in the Annual Plan 2021/22  include previously announced plans to relaunch BBC3 as a linear channel in early 2022.

The proposals will require an amendment to the BBC’s Operating Licence and will be subject to the appropriate regulatory approval process.

Other plans in the report include increased investment in BBC3 content, in line with the BBC’s 2020/21 commitment to double investment in BBC3 content — particularly for audiences aged 16 to 35 — by 2022/23.

The BBC will additionally implement changes to iPlayer by bringing more boxsets of new commissions, returning titles and classic programs from its archive to the service.

Despite efforts to create a “leaner” organization, the Beeb stated COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty in the year ahead, with finances requiring “stringent management.”

Competition from new entrants in the SVOD market has been “intense,” the report stated, increasing the competition for audiences and driving up costs for talent and content.

In 2020/21, the BBC will have delivered £880 million of annual recurring savings since 2016/17– beating its £800 million target by 2021/22 a year earlier than planned.

This year, the organization projects ongoing savings to rise above £950 million. Last month, the BBC’s Value for Audiences report warned of “difficult choices” around programs and services as it looks to create a leaner operation.

Earlier this month, the BBC announced it would be reallocating decision-making power outside of London as part of a major transformation that would see at least 60% of network TV commissioning spend made outside the city in key genres including factual.

BBC2 orders Storyboard Studios special

In other BBC news, the pubcaster has commissioned Glasgow-based Storyboard Studios to produce a 1 x 60 minute ‘Horizon’ special tentatively titled How to Sleep Well with Michael Mosley.

Fronted by award-winning science journalist Michael Mosley, the program will reveal how scientists are unlocking the ways in which sleep impacts the human body.

The documentary’s findings will be informed by a sleep study from the Oxford University’s Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute, which will investigate how we sleep and the link between sleep and physical and mental health.

How To Sleep Well with Michael Mosley (w/t) is directed by Dani Carpanen, produced by Jon Willers and executive produced by Natalie Humphreys. The documentary was commissioned by Jack Bootle, head of commissioning, science and natural history, and Patrick Holland, controller, BBC2. The BBC commissioning editor is Tom Coveney.

Photo: BBC director-general Tim Davie

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.