BBC Releases Annual Plan


Restoring BBC Three as a linear channel and bringing BBC Four to the international market as an SVOD service are among the plans being considered by the British public broadcaster as it sets out its vision for the two years ahead.

The BBC’s Annual Plan comes as the broadcaster has experienced usage spikes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Viewing of BBC television has been almost 50 percent higher than last year during some weeks, while viewing figures for TV news have hit their highest levels since 2003. The BBC has about a 24 percent share of all U.K. video, audio and online time spent by the average adult in a week (Netflix is around 3 percent).

Financial challenges remain for the broadcaster, which faces an estimated £125 million in lost income this year due to the crisis.

Production on BBC shows is expected to return within weeks, the broadcaster says, with filming on EastEnders and Top Gear on track to resume by the end of June. Working with its production partners, the BBC says it is being flexible around delivery, and varying cash flow as appropriate on a title-by-title basis. It is also doubling its investment in the Small Indie Fund and upping development spend. The BBC also says it will increase investment in archive and acquisition rights during this period to broaden the range of content available for audiences.

The BBC is looking to step up its commitment to serving young audiences. As such, it is considering restoring BBC Three as a linear channel. “While young people would continue to predominately watch BBC Three content online, we believe that with the depth of content we now have available, there are still more people we could reach through a linear channel…. We also hope to double the amount we spend on BBC Three commissions over the next two years. This money would have to be found from elsewhere in BBC content budgets.”

The BBC is looking into the possibility of exporting BBC Four as a global SVOD service for its specialist factual slate.

“Like many organizations, the BBC faces some very real financial challenges in the year ahead, but I am delighted that our services are performing so strongly and making a real difference to the public during a challenging time,” said Sir David Clementi, BBC’s chairman. “I am proud of the job the BBC has done informing, educating and entertaining the U.K. at this unprecedented time and the response from audiences has been humbling. I would like to thank our staff for their performance and for everything they have done.”

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director-general, added, “The pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for most organizations. The BBC is no different. In our response, we have always tried to put the public first and deliver our public service remit in its truest sense. The response from audiences has been remarkable. We have seen a huge leap in the usage of our services, particularly among young people. The digital improvements we’ve made over the past year mean the BBC is well placed to embrace the future. We can now give audiences the BBC they want—a better iPlayer with more quality programs available for longer, and a BBC Sounds that is innovating and performing.

“No organization from the smallest shop to the largest multinational will be unchanged by this pandemic, but I believe this is a moment where the BBC can do more than ever for the U.K. and help us out of this crisis. None of us have all the answers today. But I honestly believe that the BBC has demonstrated its unique value to the country, and future change—in whatever form—should always be guided by the values and principles that founded the BBC. They have more than stood the test of time.”