Tests for the imminent return of BBC Three can now begin in earnest after the CBBC channel axes evening schedule.
As we revealed last month, CBBC’s broadcast hours have been cut to make way for the return of BBC Three at the beginning of February. As of 5th January 2022, the channel now finishes at 6:57pm each day.
Viewers tuning into the channel after that time are seeing a generic apology message with basic BBC branding. On Sky Glass, the earlier CBBC downtime has been incorrectly flagged as being due to ‘rights restrictions’. On the iPlayer, the live stream directs users to on-demand content on the iPlayer.
The reduction in CBBC’s hours was approved by Ofcom has part of its approval of the return of BBC Three. As part of the arrangement, CBBC will once again share its bandwidth with BBC Three, as it was before BBC Three closed in 2016.
However, the BBC did not widely publicise the hour change. Since 2016, CBBC has been on-air until 9pm.
What happens next?
Between now and the launch of BBC Three, technical tests will take place.
Initially, viewers may see an off-air video caption in place of CBBC after 6:58pm. In the next few days, the CBBC feed will be replaced across all platforms by either a receiver or EPG-generated caption or an MHEG/HbbTV off-air slate which will load when a viewer attempts to access CBBC.
Once the CBBC channel is ‘blanked out’ after 6:58pm, the bandwidth can then be used for tests for the new BBC Three service.
Shortly before BBC Three’s launch – currently expected to be 1st February – the channel will be officially added to channel listings.
Channel numbers for the new BBC Three are yet to be confirmed by the broadcaster.