Ofcom approval, Pact terms of trade deal pave way for BBC Three’s linear return

After a period of public consultation, British broadcast regulator Ofcom has officially given the greenlight to the return of BBC Three — the pubcaster’s youth-skewing network — as a linear ...
November 26, 2021

After a period of public consultation, British broadcast regulator Ofcom has officially given the greenlight to the return of BBC Three — the pubcaster’s youth-skewing network — as a linear channel.

The revamped broadcast channel will return in February, 2022 and will be available via Freeview, Sky, Virgin and Freesat.

“This is a big moment, with the new channel providing a destination for young audiences to discover more content on the BBC,” said Fiona Campbell (pictured), BBC Three controller, in a statement. “We will work hand in hand with iPlayer to provide a broad offering that is representative of the whole of the UK and we will continue to back new talent and bold ideas. This approach will bring the audience a distinctive mix of programs that are there to entertain, inspire and challenge thinking, at a pivotal and exciting time to be young in the UK.”

In March of this year, the BBC first announced its plans to bring BBC Three back to broadcast, effectively walking back its decision to move BBC three to digital in 2016. Research undertaken by the pubcaster, as revealed in its 2020/2021 annual report, showed that “a significant group of younger viewers… maintain a strong linear TV habit.”

The channel, aimed squarely at the 16-34 demographic, first launched in 2003. Ofcom gave provisional clearance for its linear return in September, opening up the decision to public consultation with the aim to arrive at a final decision by the end of 2021.

Under the final Ofcom ruling, to ensure the distinctive nature of the channel, at least 75% of hours broadcast each year on BBC Three must be original programs, commissioned by the BBC for UK audiences. The regulator also has stipulated that the channel must deliver first-run UK content across a variety of genres, as well as weekday news programs.

Now that the decision has arrived, the broadcaster has also entered into a new Terms of Trade deal with UK production organization Pact for programs made by independent producers from the territory.

Under the terms of the deal, for BBC Three commissions, the BBC will have a two-year window on streaming service iPlayer plus unlimited transmissions on the BBC Three broadcast channel during the first 18 months. The BBC also has a further 18 transmission days on BBC Three for the remaining 3.5 years of license included within the initial program payment to independent producers.

For transmissions on other BBC channels, repeats can be purchased separately under existing terms. For iPlayer use beyond the two years, a payment of 1% for non-exclusivity and 2% for exclusivity is required for each 12 month extension, and each time the BBC acquires an additional iPlayer window, the initial license term reduces by six months, but can be extended.

“This new deal is great news for both the BBC and independent producers, and we are really pleased to have concluded this in good time for launch,” said Jo Korn, the BBC’s commercial, rights and business affairs director, in a statement. “It provides the channel with the flexibility to ensure its programs deliver real value to audiences however they wish to view the content, as well as recognition of success for producers.”

Pact’s director of business affairs, Max Rumney, added: “Our members are pleased to see the return of the linear channel and the opportunities this will bring for producers to showcase the brilliant creativity of the UK independent production sector. It is a great example of Pact and the BBC working together to deliver a positive result for everyone.”

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