BBC partners with Idris Elba and others as content moves online

In anticipation of BBC3's online launch on Feb. 3, the British pubcaster has announced a slate of long and short-form programs.
January 26, 2016

After more than six months of planning, BBC3 will finally switch from a linear broadcast channel to a digital video platform. The official “switch-over” will occur on Feb. 16, the British pubcaster confirmed.

At an event in London, execs for the new digital channel unveiled the two platforms that its online version will consist of:

  • The Best Of, which will focus on long-form programming, including new and pre-existing original BBC content; and
  • The Daily Drop, which will stream short-form videos, image galleries, blog posts and trending stories.

The BBC has also announced a number of content deals and partnerships to bring new original content to BBC3 online, including one with Green Door Pictures, the production company owned by actor Idris Elba (pictured). Green Door will deliver a series of short film (the number has not been specified) featuring “new writers” and “new on-screen talent working alongside established on-screen talent,” according to a media statement released by the BBC.

Other new series include:

  • Love Triangle, a series of eight short films (eight minutes each) from the true crime doc series Life and Death Row. Each film will follow a standalone story and be published alongside supporting documents, including witness statements, police recordings and crime scene photographs. The premiere episode will be available on Feb. 16, the day of BBC3’s official switch-over.
  • Drama

    Clique, which follows two childhood friends whose lives becoming increasingly complicated after starting university in Edinburgh.

  • Short-form series Life Hacks, with Ben Hart presenting unsuspecting members of the public with seemingly magical “hacks” to make their lives easier.
  • Crime doc Unsolved: The Boy Who Disappeared. Alys Harte and Bronagh Munro investigate the real-life disappearance of a teenager 20 years ago. The story will be told in a variety of formats, including video and other digital formats such as blog posts and articles.
  • Dan Murdoch’s documentary Black Power, a follow up to his previous work KKK: The Fight For White Supremacy. In the documentary, Murdoch travels to the U.S. to meet with former and current Klu Klux Klan and Black Power leaders.
  • A new unnamed series of documentaries by Stacey Dooley documentaries on the attitudes toward sex and prostitution in different cultures, including Turkey, Brazil and Russia.
  • An unnamed short film about the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne.

BBC3 launched on TV in 2003 in an effort to appeal to young viewers ages 16 to 34 years. That, of course, was long before the advent of VOD services such as YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo and other sources of digital entertainment. Now, according to the BBC’s own statistics, more than 50% of videos watched by the same age demo are not viewed on live television, and more than 90% of individuals in that demographic now own a smartphone and have at least one social media account.

Faced with increasing competition from digital entertainment, the BBC made the controversial decision to go digital with its youth programming — a move the pubcaster estimates will save it $45 million a year.

The savings come partly from the smaller budget — the BBC has stated that it will spend 80% of its former budget on programming for its digital platform.

But Damian Kavanagh, controller of BBC3, said there are advantages beyond the financial, noting that digital entertainment allows for more versatility and diversity in content.

“(The programs are) freed from the constraints of linear TV, and because we’re freed from the schedule we can use whatever format and platform is most appropriate,” said Kavanagh in a statement. “The majority of what we will make is TV… but we’ll make short-form video, blogs and picture-led stories, as well.”

He said BBC3’s presence will also expand to YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat.

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