Six years after BBC Three’s move online, the brand is returning as a full TV channel next month, marking a new (albeit slightly familiar) era for the BBC.
Targeting the 16 to 34-year-old demographic, BBC Three first launched in 2003, and was the original home to shows like Gavin & Stacey, Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps, Little Britain, Nighty Night, The Mighty Boosh, Bad Education, Torchwood and Being Human.
However, as part of cost-cutting exercise, the channel closed in 2016 and instead became a sub-section of the iPlayer – a decision that faced much opposition at the time.
Despite the controversy, the BBC Three brand continued to produce new hits, including Normal People, Fleabag, Killing Eve and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, but in 2021, plans were announced to reverse the move.
The BBC said this was to “make sure its programs reach as many young people as possible wherever they live in the UK”.
“It has exciting, groundbreaking content that deserves the widest possible audience and using BBC iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value,” the corporation’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore said.
With BBC Three’s return to our screens now almost upon us, here’s everything we can tell you about what to expect…
When is BBC Three actually back?
BBC Three will return to TV screens as a broadcast channel on Tuesday 1 February at 7pm. The channel will broadcast nightly from 7pm, as it did in its previous incarnation.
How will I be able to watch BBC Three?
The channel will be available to watch on Freeview, Sky, Virgin and Freesat. Channel EPGs are still to be announced. You may also need to retune your set top box to add BBC Three to your channels list.
Viewers will also be able to watch BBC Three live on iPlayer, with content still also available on demand after broadcast.
What new shows will be on BBC Three?
BBC Three will be a “multi-genre offering”, where audiences can expect a “rich content mix of drama, comedy, entertainment, documentaries, news and sport”.
It will kick off its relaunch with the previously announced RuPaul’s Drag Race spin-off, UK Versus The World.
The series will see a crop of queens from the UK version of the show competing against previous competitors from other international editions, including the US.
Also confirmed for launch week, BBC Three will be hosting both semi-finals and the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) live. The huge tournament featuring 24 National teams based in Africa is hosted in Cameroon this year, with UK coverage fronted by Jermaine Jenas.
While other shows for the launch are still to be confirmed, the BBC has announced a raft of other commissions coming to BBC Three in the coming months.
Documentary series Santa Claus The Serial Killer will see journalist Mobeen Azhar travel to Toronto, Canada, to explore the case of a shopping mall Santa who confessed to eight counts of murder in and around the Gay Village district of the city.
Mobeen said: “I set off to Toronto to try to understand how and why so many men lost their lives but what quickly became clear was that this was not just a story about a serial killer but about policing, the immigrant experience and how our communities take care of each other. ”
Described as an “access-all-areas observational series”, Flight Club goes under the wings and inside the lives of those working for airline Loganair, as they lift the lid on what a career high in the clouds is all about.
Actor, writer and singer-songwriter Nicôle Lecky will bring her critically acclaimed Royal Court play mood to BBC Three.
The six-part drama follows aspiring recording artist Sasha (played by Nicôle) who is introduced to the world of social media influencing after being kicked out of her family home.
As the gap between her new online presence and her original dream of being a singer widens, Sasha finds herself struggling to escape a world that is more complex and darker than she could have imagined.
Also starring Jessica Hynes and Paul Kaye, the show features an original soundtrack performed by Nicôle herself.
Observational documentary series brickies follows groups of young bricklayers working on northern building sites as they go head-to-head to see who can earn the most cash.
No More: Bad Girl charts the personal journey of TV producer and presenter Persephone Rizvi, as she returns to her hometown of Huddersfield, having abruptly left seven years ago without disclosing the reasons why to some of her closest friends.
A second series of Rose Matafeo’s critically-acclaimed romcom Starstruck has also been announced.
With five million iPlayer streams, series one was BBC Three’s biggest new comedy of 2021, telling the story of aa millennial – played by Rose – living in East London juggling two dead-end jobs and navigating the complications of becoming romantically involved with famous film star Tom, played by Nikesh Patel.
Series two will see Rose’s character Jessie dealing with the real-world consequences of deciding to stay in London and pursue a relationship with him, with Russell Tovey also joining the cast.
There will also be another series of dance dating show I Like The Way U Move.
The first, which saw single professional dancers and rookie non-dancers compete to find a connection both on and off the dance floor, launched on iPlayer in October, with a second commissioned just days after its debut.
Previous BBC Three shows that will also air on the relaunched channel also include Nail Bar Boys, Hot Property, Tonight With Target, The Rap Game UK, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and Meet The Khans: Big In Bolton.
What will the new BBC Three look like?
BBC Three will get a new brand identity when it returns to TV, which will also bring it in line with the BBC’s recent corporate rebrand.
A preview of this is already airing as part of a 30 minute highlights reel on hidden channels as part of a test transmission.
What rules does BBC Three have to adhere to?
After BBC first announced in March 2021 that the channel was to return, it was subject to approval from broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.
Upon its agreement, the regulator stipulated that the BBC must ensure that at least “75% of hours broadcast each year must be original programmes”, as commissioned by the BBC for a UK viewing audience.
Ofcom said the relaunch would help the BBC reach younger viewers, particularly those from lower-income homes and those living outside London and the South East.
Alongside last year’s news that BBC Three would relaunch as a channel, the corporation also announced that it had agreed to a new terms of trade deal with the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact) trade association relating to TV production from independent producers.