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BBC Three could return as a linear channel after going online only

The youth-focused channel, whose recent hit shows include Normal People, went digital-only in 2016.

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Normal People was a hit for BBC Three (BBC/Element/Enda Bowe/PA)

Normal People was a hit for BBC Three (BBC/Element/Enda Bowe/PA)

Normal People was a hit for BBC Three (BBC/Element/Enda Bowe/PA)

The BBC is considering bringing back BBC Three as a linear TV channel while cutting budgets in other areas.

The youth-focused channel, home to recent hit Normal People, went digital-only in 2016.

The BBC expects to double the amount it spends on BBC Three commissions.

And it “will consider the case for restoring BBC Three as a linear channel as well as an online destination, though no decisions have been taken”.

Amid competition from streaming services like Netflix, it plans to double the amount it spends on commissions for the channel – from around £30 million-£40 million to around £80 million – over the next two years.

BBC Three was the original home of Fleabag and Killing Eve, both of which have been worldwide successes.

Normal People, its adaptation of Sally Rooney’s acclaimed novel, arrived on iPlayer in April and has so far had 38 million requests to view it, according to the BBC.

The corporation will have to trim budgets in other areas to invest in BBC Three.

A BBC source said there are “no plans to close” BBC Four, despite reports that the highbrow channel could be shut.

The source said: “BBC Three has become the home to some of our biggest shows.

“We need to back that success, so, within an environment where we are making difficult cuts, this is one of a limited number of areas where we will seek to invest.”

Ahead of the publication of the BBC’s annual plan on Wednesday, outgoing BBC director-general Lord Hall wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “There can be no question that the battle for young people’s time and attention is getting fiercer.

“That’s why our annual plan … puts greater focus on reaching young, under-served audiences with dedicated content and a more seamless and personalised service across TV, audio, and online.”

Recapturing a younger audience will be seen as a key task for the new BBC director-general.

Last year, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom warned that the BBC is at risk of losing “a generation of viewers” if it cannot engage a younger audience.

PA