BBC Three’s Fiona Campbell on TV within the digital age

The return of BBC Three as a ‘proper’ TV channel early this year felt like a curious move in 2022. After all, it had more than proved itself as a digital success story in the six years it had been off air, commissioning what feels like hit after hit, from Killing Eve to Fleabag, Normal People to This Country. And surely the youth audience that it is aimed at are only really interested in digital, aren’t they?

It turns out that this latter point was perhaps something of a stereotype. Speaking as part of the Festival of Marketing’s event in London last week, controller Fiona Campbell revealed that in fact there was a significant proportion of younger people that still have a “linear habit” when it comes to TV, whom BBC Three was struggling to reach in the digital space.

“There’s definitely about three million people who watch linear TV, who don’t watch on demand, who are in that youth space that we could hopefully attract, and they are mostly located in the north of England and in the nations,” she explains.

“I myself am based in Northern Ireland … [and] I’m a bit obsessed by that audience because I think they’re not very talked to directly about their lives. The tone can still be very reflective of the capital or Manchester.”

Described as an “opportunity audience”, it is significant for the BBC to reach these younger viewers and hook them into the Beeb at an early stage in their lives, and, as Campbell points out, this is a much harder job to do on digital. “It’s very hard to get your signal out there in a clear way in the market, especially to people who aren’t really engaged with you necessarily, your lightest users.

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