BBC to air smaller number of different children’s shows

Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The BBC will air fewer children’s shows as part of plans to “stay on top” amid competition from US streamers and YouTube.

The broadcaster said the move was not a money-saving exercise and there would be no reduction in the overall hours of commissioning.

But it wants to put more emphasis into a smaller number of different programmes, saying it must “adapt”.

Patricia Hidalgo, the new director of BBC children’s and education, said the broadcaster would “dedicate more resources to less titles”.

She added: “Once we’ve commissioned less programmes, we want more episodes of those programmes.

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“We want to build brands. This will extend our digital offer, including games and apps.”

The broadcaster has not decided which shows will not return.

Ms Hidalgo said: “We produce about 450 hours of content per year.

“If you make that into too many shows they become very, very difficult for you to be able to support.

“If you reduce the amount of titles that you’re making but put more episodes behind those titles, you’ll have more time to promote each title when you launch it.

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“You’ll be able to create more consistency (and) affinity… you’re going to retain more of that audience.

“It’s not about budgets. It’s actually a smart way of doing things that we have to do because we have to move with the times”.

She said the BBC was not planning to close its children’s channels, such as CBeebies and CBBC, but it must “transition from thinking and behaving like linear networks to streaming platforms”

She added: “iPlayer is going to be hugely important for us.

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“Our audience want more personalisation and we need to be realistic about what they’re watching.”

The BBC “will be offering linear channels” for as long as viewers want them, she said.

There will be a year-long strand of themed programmes on “sustainability” and the environment and more investment in UK animation.

The broadcaster will also continue investing in education programming after lockdown is over – on the channels, online and iPlayer.

Ms Hidalgo said: “Our shows represent our audience. Our shows are local, they’re contemporary with what’s happening with UK children, and with their lives…. Having a public service for children is paramount.”