Perhaps the biggest story missed in the past week is that the regulator Ofcom have given approval for BBC Three to return to our screens. The part-time channel with return to terrestrial platform Freeview, cable platform Virgin Media, and satellite platforms Sky and Freesat. The channel had closed in traditional form in February 2016, with programming moved to the BBC iPlayer.
Sadly, as the previous channel numbers have been re-allocated to other services, BBC Three will have different channel numbers on each of the platforms, but platform operators are required by Ofcom to give BBC Three a prominent channel number. This means that BBC Three will appear near the top of electronic programme guides (EPGs), but channel numbers are yet to confirmed.
Platforms operators have 18 months to accommodate this, meaning that BBC Three may initially appear with a temporary channel number. On Sky, Virgin Media, and Freesat, it is expected that a channel number will be made available by the launch of full regionalisation of BBC One HD (high definition). This will allow BBC One HD to take the top spot on the EPG, allowing the standard definition to drop down to a less prominent number, thus freeing up a slot for BBC Three.
On Freeview, it is expected that all channels from 25 onwards will be moved down 1 number to accommodate BBC Three, except Dave Ja Vu (+1 version of Dave) which will move from 23 to 25. This will allow BBC Three to occupy channel number 23. In Scotland, BBC Four occupies channel 24, with that number left unused in other parts of the UK.
It is expected that BBC Three will make its return some point during February 2022, only a few weeks after the initial planned return month of January, despite the lengthy consulation. Satellite re-configurations have already been made to accommodate the channel. As the channel will share bandwidth with CBBC, the latter channel will revert back to a 7pm finish time, from 9pm.
A new app has been added to the Sky Q connected satellite platform. BBC Sounds allows users to access live radio, music mixes, playlists, and podcasts produced by the BBC.
The app is now available to all Sky Q customers, and can be launched using the voice control remote by saying “Launch BBC Sounds”.
Among the functions of the app is the ability to pick up where they left off on other devices. Users can subscribe to shows so they don’t miss an episode, and bookmark their favourites.
The deal expands on existing collaboration between the BBC and Sky, which saw iPlayer launch on Sky Q towards the end of 2019.
According to the BBC’s annual report from April 2019 to March 2020, the BBC is still the most used media organisation in the UK, with 41 million users a day.
90% of the population use the BBC each week, and this grew to 94% in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BBC iPlayer recorded a record 4.8 billion requests to stream programmes during the period covered by the report.
BBC’s iPlayer catch up and streaming service saw an increase in demand, with a record breaking number of viewers.
During January to June, 3.1 billion requests to stream programmes were made, an increase of 47% when compared with the same period the previous year.
April to June of this year saw 1.6 billion requests, marking a new best ever quarter. This is an increase of 59% compared to the same period in 2019.
iPlayer viewing had already increased prior to lockdown, with the first quarter (January to March 2020) seeing an increase of 34% compared to the same quarter in 2019.
The BBC has submitted to Ofcom plans to revamp their BBC iPlayer service. The proposals include making more box sets available, and making programmes available for up to 12 months instead of the existing 30 days. More archive material is also to be included on the iPlayer.
The BBC has already conducted a Public Interest Test, which has indicated general support for the proposals. Ofcom will now assess the impact on commercial providers which offer competing services, in order to ensure that rival services such as ITV Hub can compete on a level playing field. This process is expected to be complete by August.