BBC Three will return as a linear TV channel in January 2022, six years after it moved online.
The broadcaster said move was made in part because the channel has had a string of hits in recent years, including Fleabag, Normal People and Killing Eve.
The channel will be targeted at audiences aged 16-34 and will broadcast from 7pm to 4am each day, the same as the hours of the channel when it closed in 2016. As a result CBBC’s broadcast hours will revert to closing at 7pm - as was the case before 2016.
The move is not entirely unexpected. Last year, the broadcaster announced it would double the BBC Three budget.
In making the announcement, the BBC said research suggested there would be a "strong case" for it to come back as a regular TV channel, focusing on younger audiences.
"BBC Three is a BBC success story, backing creativity, new talent and brave ideas has resulted in hit after hit, from Fleabag and Man Like Mobeen, RuPaul's Drag Race UK and Jesy Nelson's Odd One Out, to Normal People and This Country," said Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore in a statement. "The BBC needs to back success and make sure its programs reach as many young people as possible wherever they live in the UK. So regardless of the debates about the past, we want to give BBC Three its own broadcast channel again. It has exciting, ground breaking content that deserves the widest possible audience and using iPlayer alongside a broadcast channel will deliver the most value."
The channel announced it was moving online late in 2014 as a cost-cutting measure, but also because that was where its execs saw the future. Damian Kavanagh, the channel’s controller when it transitioned to digital, said: "We are the first broadcaster in the world to propose something like this."
But the success of BBC Three programming in recent years has led to a confusing programming strategy. Programs would be posted on BBC's iPlayer and described as "BBC Three" productions and then would randomly show up later on the core BBC television service anyway. And some producers were unhappy with the BBC Three digital experience, complaining that if the program wasn't on the 'featured' bar of the BBC iPlayer, viewers wouldn't see it.
Which led to the ironic situation that while the money saved by moving BBC Three to a digital channel was shifted to BBC One's drama budget, several of BBC One's biggest drama hits in recent years turned out to be repurposed BBC Three programs.
Left unanswered in this decision is the future of BBC Four, which in the past year has primarily become the home of random old programs from the BBC archives.
In their Annual Plan, from May 2020, the BBC said that "BBC Four will increase focus on bringing together collections of the most distinctive content from the BBC’s rich archive."
But there has been no update since.