BBC plans marketing blitz to reach lost viewers

The BBC is planning to spend £100million over four years to try and re-connect with a lost generation of viewers.

It's put out a tender for a media agency to take charge of an ad-buying campaign worth up to £25 million a year in order to reach 16-34 year olds, who aren't watching traditional BBC services. The previous advertising contract, which started in 2015 and is due to expire shortly is estimated to be worth up to £15 million a year.

Over the weekend, The Times reported that the "national broadcaster fears that its 16-34 audience share is already so low that young people will not discover the BBC programmes that are aimed at them unless alerted through other outlets."

The Times also reported that the move is likely to be seen as being politically controversial, due to the BBC's decision not to continue offering free TV licences for all over 75s when the Government - through the DWP - stops paying for them next year.

However, the £10 million overall annual increase in value of the tender is only a drop in the ocean compared to the £500 million a year it would cost to maintain free TV licences for all over 75s.

Among those targeted in the proposed marketing blitz are those viewers who have been twice shunned by the BBC - viewers who are now in their twenties.
  • In 2006, CBBC moved to reach a younger demographic as part of its "Creative Future Initiative", ditching its previous remit to reach young teenagers to focus on primary school children. Among the highest profile casualties was Byker Grove. The replacement service for teenagers, BBC Switch, never really caught on and was one of the first things to be axed with the BBC's funding was cut in 2010, leaving 12-16 year olds in a void, not officially covered by any BBC TV service.
  • In 2016, the same viewers - now a decade older -  were affected by the BBC's decision to cease broadcasting BBC Three as a linear service, but also to cut the overall budget for the BBC Three, resulting in a cut in the amount of traditional content in favour of short form content, including social media clips.
  • A confused linear TV strategy saw BBC Two first make a move to reach the age group, including rebooting Robot Wars. Then BBC One made its move by clearing the late night slot on Mondays-Wednesdays - not typically known for youth TV scheduling, to air programmes from BBC Three Online.
  • Last year, an Ofcom report revealed only 8% of the target age group actually watched BBC Three Online content, and that's despite the hit drama Killing Eve being initially brought to the UK under the BBC Three banner. 
  • Arguably, the money saved by cutting services to younger audiences is now having to be spent trying to reach them again.

FYI: The BBC doesn't have to pay for advertising on its own channels - but it has already increased the number of minutes on BBC One devoted to promoting BBC programmes and services from 9,008 minutes in 2017-18 to 9,551 minutes in 2018-19.