BBC Three is about to return to Freeview, Sky Q, Virgin TV and Freesat viewers nationwide next month. BBC bosses decided to remove BBC Three from broadcast back in 2016, with the channel branding only surviving with shows and documentaries broadcast via BBC iPlayer. Since then, the channel has enjoyed some runaway successes, including the critically-lauded Normal People (adapted by the novel of the same name by Sally Rooney), RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, and mock-documentary comedy This Country, to name a few.
Since the decision to pull the channel from Electronic Program Guides, or EPGs, six years ago, shows that broadcast on BBC Three could only be downloaded to your Sky Q or Virgin TV 360 box by searching through the on-demand catalogue. The fact that BBC Three shows didn’t air on a terrestrial channel meant they wouldn’t work with features like Series Link, which sees your Sky Q or Sky Glass automatically record new entries in an ongoing series – so they’re always ready for you to watch when it’s convenient. Viewers would have to specifically search out new additions in ongoing series broadcast on BBC Three by navigating to separate BBC iPlayer apps on Sky or Virgin platforms, or searching for new episodes on a regular basis.
Shows went live on BBC iPlayer at set times as if they were broadcast. For example, new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK went live at 7pm each week. However, viewers would not necessarily be watching at the same time as some downloaded the show, others started to stream immediately, and others watched later the same evening.
But that’s all about to change as BBC Three returns to the airwaves for the first time in six years. BBC Three will broadcast from 7pm every night of the week, and will be available to watch on Freeview, Sky, Virgin and Freesat, as well as on BBC iPlayer. The BBC hasn’t revealed the channel number for each platform yet, so stay tuned to find out how to jump into the channel when it returns on February 1, 2022.
BBC Three is primarily targeted at younger viewers – one of the reasons the Beeb believed that younger viewers would be happy to watch on-demand, rather than tuning in for set broadcast times. The channel has launched a number of blockbuster successes for the BBC over the years, including the critically-acclaimed 15 Storeys High from the late Sean Lock, the award-winning smash Fleabag from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, This Country, Little Britain, which launched the careers of David Walliams and Matt Lucas, cult comedy classic The Mighty Boost, People Just Do Nothing, Don’t Tell the Bride – which has recently resurfaced on Netflix, and Gavin and Stacey. The latter was later promoted to BBC One and set viewing records when it returned for a Christmas special back in 2019.
Speaking about the decision to return BBC Three to EPGs across the country, Fiona Campbell, Controller, BBC Three, said: “We know how popular sport is with younger audiences and it’s going to have a big part to play on BBC Three. AFCON is set to be an incredibly exciting tournament with some of the best players in the World on show and it’s brilliant news that we will be showing the climax of the competition on free to air television.”