BBC Three relaunch: why is it back, what channel number is it on Sky, Freeview and Virgin, and launch schedule

BBC Three is returning to broadcast television as a linear television channel on February 1 2022

After nearly six years as an online only iPlayer exclusive, BBC Three is returning to broadcast television as a linear television channel on February 1 2022.

The channel is kicking off its return to linear television with a launch party hosted by Greg James and Clara Amfo, as well as a brand new international version of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Here’s everything you need to know about BBC Three’s return.

Why was BBC Three taken off air in the first place?

In February 2014, BBC Director-General Tony Hall announced budget cuts of £100 million, and proposed that the cuts be made by closing a television channel.

Though there was widespread public opposition, the BBC Trust (then the governing body that regulated the BBC, which has since been absorbed into Ofcom) decided to go ahead with moving the channel online regardless.

The argument was that younger viewers (the demographic BBC Three targets) had overwhelmingly moved online anyway, and that the BBC would be better able to make more distinct content at a lower price if BBC Three was an online only channel.

Why is BBC Three being brought back?

The idea was first proposed in May 2020, with BBC budget proposals arguing that BBC Three “now has the potential to reach a wider audience on a linear channel, as well as the key demographic which will continue to watch online”.

Essentially, it’s because BBC Three originals made during its time as an online platform had been so successful – in particular shows like This Country or Fleabag, and especially Normal People – that there was interest in reviving the channel again.

What channel will BBC Three be now?

BBC Three will broadcast every evening from 7pm onwards.

On Freeview, it’ll be Channel 23 in standard definition and Channel 109 in high definition.

On Virgin Media, it’ll be Channel 107 (and BBC Four will become Channel 108).

On Sky, it’s a bit more complicated, with a few different numbers to remember. In most of the UK, it’ll be Channel 117 – however, in Scotland it’s Channel 141, and in London it’s Channel 173.

Sky Glass users in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland will be able to find BBC Three on Channel 118, and in Wales on Channel 119.

What is going to be on BBC Three for its launch?

BBC Three’s first programme will be a Launch Party, hosted by Greg James and Clara Amfo

The night will continue with a double bill of new episodes of Eating with My Ex at 8pm, and then at 9pm RuPaul’s Drag Race vs the World begins – the first international version of the popular drag competition.

Documentary Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud, about navigating the GRT and LGBT communities, begins at 10:30pm.

Over the coming weeks, BBC Three programming includes Rose Matafeo’s romcom Starstruck (beginning Monday 7February) and tractor racing show The Fast and the Farmer-ish. A new Sally Rooney adaptation, Conversations with Friends, will also debut this year.

New gym sitcom Peacock, from the creators of BBC Three hit People Just Do Nothing, will air later this year also.

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