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Analysis: More repeats for the BBC as ITV acquires Family Guy

ANALYSIS | The BBC will be reduced to showing repeats of cult US animation Family Guy from this Autumn, with ITV2 taking over the rights to show new episodes on free-to-air television in the UK.

The show was at the centre of the recent campaign to keep BBC Three as a regular TV channel, as the BBC can't offer Family Guy and sister show American Dad via the iPlayer due to rights restrictions. During the consultation period, the BBC was unable to tell viewers what would exactly happen to Family Guy when BBC Three moves online.

When word got out in February that ITV had been talking to executives at Fox to snatch the rights for the show, and had even redecorated a lift at ITV's HQ, the BBC went on record saying that Family Guy would be staying on the BBC until 2017.

"Why couldn't they have told us that before the consultation?" was the response of some. Indeed, had such a statement been made earlier, then it's possible that some of the backlash against the online transfer of BBC Three would have been immediately neutralised.

Today, another part of the Family Guy rights puzzle slotted into place when ITV suddenly announced that it had acquired the rights for all new episodes of the show from Autumn. The BBC was forced to admit that although the show would continue to be shown on the BBC until 2017, the episodes would all be repeats from this Autumn onwards.

Last week, the BBC was accused of 'asset-stripping' BBC Three before the BBC Trust had actually made its decision over the future of the channel. Jimmy Mulville, who together with Jon Thoday launched a bid to buy the channel, said in The Guardian:
 “Already assets are being taken off BBC3, they are destroying the value of BBC3 as we speak. They are actually setting up and putting resources into a BBC online channel which is yet to be ratified by the trust. This speaks to the very heart of how the BBC is governed.”
And the news that the BBC will continue to show just repeats of Family Guy for over a year from this Autumn, possibly on BBC Two, follows criticism that the corporation has become too reliant on repeats in recent years.

The BBC Executive plans to move BBC Three online this Autumn, with an emphasis on new forms of content via the iPlayer and through deals with commercial social media platforms. Some of its former bandwidth will be used to extend CBBC to 9pm. BBC Three timeshares a slot with CBBC. What will happen to the remaining airtime from 9pm to the morning is still uncertain.

The BBC notes that younger people tend to watch more content on tablets and mobiles and feels that the move will mean that BBC Three will remain relevant to its target audience. Critics point out that the older part of BBC Three audience aren't being catered for, with no distinct answers as to what will happen to live coverage of Glastonbury and the Eurovision Semi-Finals. They also question the need to expand CBBC if younger viewers aren't watching as much TV.

Separately, two independent production company executives have said they want to buy BBC Three. Jimmy Mulville and Jon Thoday have held discussions with the BBC Trust. The BBC Executive has dismissed their bid. Some campaigners who want to save BBC Three also object to the idea of moving the channel to the private sector.

Having mooted the option to use CBBC's downtime for a part-time BBC One+1 once BBC Three closes, the BBC now plans to launch BBC One+1 as a 24 hour service using separate bandwidth on digital TV platforms. Terrestrially, the proposals state that BBC One+1 would launch on the "PSB3" multiplex, which can only be received with a Freeview HD receiver or YouView box, despite only broadcasting in standard definition.

The proposals also confirm that while BBC One+1 would be expected to take BBC Three's current channel number on satellite and cable platforms, it would occupy a slot lower down the Freeview channel list, presumably benefiting local TV, which currently takes Freeview channel 8 in England and Northern Ireland, but channel 23 in Scotland and Wales.


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