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BBC3 move from broadcast to online will 'pioneer how channels work in the future', says annual report

Move: BBC3 is going online-only

BBC3’s move from a linear broadcast channel to online service will “pioneer how channels work in the future”, according to the BBC’s 2013/14 annual report.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said the iPlayer was a “key part” of the BBC’s future, and the broadcaster detailed plans to personalise its online services through a significantly increased use of data analytics.

Speaking to The Drum ahead of the report’s release at the Ericsson Executive Media Summit in Sweden, the BBC’s director of future media Ralph Rivera said the broadcaster was moving into the “next phase” of its online plan.

"We’ve just approved programming work that we’re going to undertake over the next three years to build out our capability in terms of connecting with people, connecting with individuals, having people sign in, having the capability to personalise, getting the data analytics based on those interactions and capturing those signals,” he said.

“I don’t see the BBC3 move as taking anything away. We’re the first broadcaster in the world that’s announced we’re going to shut down a successful broadcast channel and turn it into an online-only proposition. Make no mistake, the audience is online, and we have an opportunity to expand that universe.

“We’ll be able to the things you can do online but you can’t do on broadcast, things like short-form video, and being able to do more interactive and empowering things for the audience to engage with us,” Rivera said.

Viewing figures for BBC3 decreased from 28 per cent to 26 per cent last year, according to the broadcaster’s annual report, in which it said there is evidence to suggest that the 18 to 34 target audience required more online content.

The BBC is still awaiting the go-ahead from the BBC Trust to move BBC3 online, and subject to approval it will make the shift in autumn 2015.

Rivera said the approach would lead to a closer relationship “between the BBC as an institution and our licence fee payers”, and said the broadcaster had a key advantage over other new media online broadcast services such as Netflix.

“Netflix doesn’t know what you read in the news that morning or what you listened to on your radio that afternoon by the time you sit down on your sofa to figure out what you want to watch on TV.

“We can bring all that data together in service of the person that has just picked up that piece of glass to engage with us, that’s our differential advantage.”

Half of the BBC’s 53 million weekly unique users last year came to the site via a smartphone or tablet device, according to annual figures. However, despite the numbers using the BBC’s online services continuing to rise, the broadcaster said the figure was increasing “quite slowly” and more resources will go into creating online content for younger audiences.

On finance, the BBC has saved £374m through its Delivering Quality First programme of cuts, although a further £326m is needed in the next three years to meet obligations. Last week, the BBC announced the loss of 415 jobs at BBC News, which is expected to save £48m by 2017.

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