The Guardian is reporting that the BBC is about to make the “biggest investment in homegrown children’s content in a generation” in order to compete against streaming services from the US.
Netflix and Amazon have increasingly looked to commission children’s TV recently, while there has been a massive decrease in home-grown output from BBC, ITV and Channel for across the last 15 years. The new cash is set to redress some of that imbalance.
When Ofcom released its new criteria for regulating The BBC’s performance back in March, it included guidelines requiring the Corporation to provide “at least 400 hours – and CBeebies at least 100 hours – of brand new UK commissioned programming each year.”
According The Guardian’s source, meeting this target will translate to an extra £34m in extra spending over the next three years – taking it the budget from £110m now to £124m by 2019-20. The same source is quoted as saying “Investment in British content, particularly for the young, is vital – unless we want more of our culture shaped and defined by the rise of west coast American companies.”
Apparently, the other big news is that about a quarter (£31.4m) of that money will be specifically targeted at online services. This is to tackle the changing way in which younger generations are consuming TV – in a similar vein to its decision to scrap BBC3’s TV service and go online-only.
The Guardian states that, “between 1998 and 2015, ITV’s original children’s programming fell from 424 hours a year to just 42; Channel 5’s fell from 353 hours to 30. Channel 4’s production of children’s television has fallen from 49 hours to zero. The BBC is responsible for 97% of original UK-produced children’s programming.”
Much of that fall is probably linked to the decline in advertising revenues caused by changing audience habits and tighter regulation on advertising aimed at children.
Update: 11.50pm the BBC has announced full details of its plans here.