BBC's digital channels report growth

Thursday, December 10 2009, 12:10 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin, Technology Reporter
BBC's digital channels report growth

BBC Vision has reported modest audience growth for BBC Three, BBC Four and Cbeebies to ease increasing pressure on the corporation's digital channels.

Last month, BBC director general Mark Thompson said that the corporation will consider reducing its digital TV and radio profile after the completion of the switchover in 2012.

Suggestions of scaling back digital services would seem to place pressure on BBC Three and BBC Four, which have reportedly not delivered strong enough audience figures to wholly justify the millions spent on establishing them.

However, the corporation revealed that BBC Three is on-track to reach an audience share of 4.4% in the target 16 to 34 age group by the close of 2009, up from 4% on previous figures. Around 4.8 million 16 to 34-year-olds now watch the channel every week.

BBC Three's performance was buoyed by the success of Being Human, which pulled in 930,000 viewers in the key age range. The total reach of all BBC channels in the 16 to 34 age group also increased slightly from 75% to 75.3%.

Audience share at BBC Four enjoyed marginal growth from 0.95% to 1%. Around 1.4m viewers watched Gracie! and 1.3m tuned in to see Enid as part of BBC Four's The Women We Loved season - the channel's best viewing figures to date.

CBeebies's viewing figures grew from 15.4% to 16.4% as the channel solidfied its position as the most watched pre-school offering, with a 34% share of the 6 to 12 audience.

BBC One still commands the biggest peak-time audience share with 22.9%, while BBC Two accounted for 8.6%. Usage of BBC iPlayer has also now reached record levels, with 53.2m programme requests in October and 59.6m in November.

"Ten years ago we had no BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC or CBeebies. Now these channels are enjoyed in the majority of British homes, delivering award-winning public service content to young audiences and a wealth of high-quality arts and culture programming that the free market would simply not provide," said BBC director of Vision Jana Bennett.

"And with BBC HD and the iPlayer we continue to pioneer the use of new technologies to add even greater value to the licence fee and accessibility to BBC programmes.

"The fact that BBC One and BBC Two have maintained their positions in a digital world testifies to their editorial strength and the impact of their programming, examples of which include Criminal Justice, Wounded and Small Island on BBC One and major seasons on poetry and modern beauty on BBC Two as well as brilliant comedies such as The Thick Of It, Psychoville and Miranda."