BBC Three moves entirely onto iPlayer from February

"Doctor Who" spin-off "Class" will be among the youth-focused shows debuting online as BBC Three disappears from traditional television.

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Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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"Don't Tell the Bride" is one of BBC Three's most popular shows.

Simon Dewey/BBC/Renegade South Ltd

BBC Three disappears from TV schedules and moves entirely onto iPlayer from February next year.

Launched in 2003, BBC Three is the publicly funded broadcaster's youth-oriented channel. That means it's at the sharp end of changing habits in the digital era as we move away from traditional TV towards the Internet and mobile entertainment. The BBC says 16-24-year-olds spend 50 percent of their viewing time watching other sources that aren't live TV, not to mention the time spent with social media and other distractions.

BBC Three is watched by 11.2 million people each week. The audience is mostly younger, reaching a quarter of Britain's 16-24-year-olds. Unfortunately, the BBC admits 80 per cent of that young audience could "simply be lost".

Beginning in February, BBC Three will be entirely online on BBC iPlayer, so you can watch on computers, smart TVs, set-top boxes, games consoles and mobile devices. Among the shows coming to the new-look BBC Three are further episodes of "People Just Do Nothing" and "Murder in Successville", as well as brand-new "Doctor Who" spinoff "Class".

Auntie Beeb announced the plan back in March 2014, and the BBC Trust has now confirmed the details after a public consultation. Conditions for the change include a commitment by the BBC to continue to offer new and innovative programmes aimed at younger audiences when the channel disappears from TV schedules.

As part of the change, the channel's budget will be slashed to £25 million from £85 million. BBC Director General Tony Hall has said a large proportion of the money saved will be invested in BBC drama programming, which has the advantage of being a money-spinner when sold to international broadcasters and online services such as Netflix or Amazon Video.

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The BBC has yet to decide what it will do with the airwaves freed up by the departure of BBC Three after the Trust rejected the original plan for a BBC One+1 channel.

Long-form BBC Three content -- which presumably refers to actual TV shows rather than shorts -- will be shown on BBC One or Two to make sure those who have difficulty watching online can still watch in the traditional manner.

As part of the BBC's increased emphasis on online content, the corporation has debuted original shorts and TV shows on its catch-up and on-demand service iPlayer. After a variety of short films, the first full series to be shown on iPlayer in its entirety was Peter Kay's gentle comedy "Car Share". The word of mouth around the show helped it go on to have the most-watched opening episode of any sitcom on any channel since 2011 when it was eventually shown on regular telly.

In December, iPlayer will premiere its first feature-length production, "The Rack Pack", a comedy about the real-life world of 1970s and '80s snooker.

In related news, CBBC will now run two hours later each day, ending at 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.