Dedicated BBC1 block will help in the upcoming fact-ent fight

Late last year, a commissioner complained to Broadcast that BBC3’s programming was being “parked at the back-end of BBC1’s linear schedule”.

It was around the time of controller Damian Kavanagh’s departure, and was part of a chorus of voices stressing that good-quality BBC3 content was failing to cut through without a prominent and permanent presence on TV.

The decision to give BBC3 a dedicated block on BBC1 (Monday to Wednesday from 10.35pm to 11.35pm) will offer viewers greater clarity and consistency around where to find BBC3 shows and is the most coherent strategy yet to address this problem.

The question is whether it goes far enough. The corporation has been grappling with re-establishing a TV strategy for BBC3 for some time.

At Edinburgh last summer, there was talk that reinstating the channel was being discussed at the highest level of the corporation. When Broadcast asked for a formal comment from the BBC, we were told that such a move was not on the agenda.

Instead, the post-news block on BBC1 represents something of a halfway house.

“The BBC has learned a huge amount from taking BBC3 online-only. It’s just a shame those lessons had to come at the expense of a significant TV presence, rather than alongside it”

The corporation must shout from the rooftops to make the youth programming on the main channel easy to find, but the strategy still gives BBC3 shows less TV prominence than the fully-fledged BBC4 and the new dedicated BBC Scotland channel, which launches next week with a £32m budget.

The BBC has learned a huge amount from taking BBC3 online-only, which can inform its wider strategy for the future. It’s just a shame the move was a cost-saving exercise dressed up as strategy, and that those online lessons had to come at the expense of a significant TV presence, rather than alongside it.

The new BBC1 block will play a role in the fact-ent fight that is brewing among the youth-focused PSB spin-offs.

Dating format Eating With My Ex (pictured) and make-up competition format Glow Up will be among the first shows to air there, and Naked Entertainment’s 21 Again, in which mums in their 30s and 40s undergo a ‘make-under’ and move in with their daughters to live as part of Generation Z, is another major commission in this space.

Meanwhile, Karl Warner is getting his feet under the table at E4. He cut his teeth at BBC3 almost a decade ago with the likes of Sun, Sea And Suspicious Parents and Blood, Sweat And Takeaways, and will want to ramp up his new channel’s efforts in the genre.

Chris Curtis

Meanwhile, ITV2 could do with some innovation too. Love Island is a phenomenon, but Survival Of The Fittest and Bromans didn’t stick and some fact-ent companions for the islanders would go down well. Let battle commence.

  • Chris Curtis is the editor in chief of Broadcast