Yes, some big popular cultural successes (e.g. Little Britain) were born on BBC Three. But, in an alternative dimension where BBC Choice/Three (and BBC Knowledge/Four?) were never invented, it's perfectly plausible that programmes like Little Britain would have been commissioned by BBC Two - the channel that gave us the very anarchic The Young Ones, for example.
It has oft been said by various people that Three and/or Four basically took different elements what Two used to do in days of yore, thus leaving Two rather struggling to find a purpose. The reason it's been oft said is...
because it's true!
Spreading essentially "two channels' worth" of content over three/four channels, makes about as much sense as a vegetarian butcher.
There's something in this. As a broadcast channel, what's BBC3's legacy?
I've always thought the same - wouldn't the BBC have commissioned all of this stuff anyway for BBC2? But for me - and this probably shows my age - the best thing that BBC3 brought me as a viewer was Monkey Dust, which ended 11 years ago.
BBC3 was conceived as a channel that'd take risks. Monkey Dust could have been crap. It wasn't. It was brilliant. Would BBC2 have taken it? Would the BBC of 2015 take it now?
BBC3 was a product of a time - 18 months before it launched, when the original proposals were being put to the government - with generous funding for a swaggering, expanding BBC, which allowed risks to be taken and mistakes to be made on its new baby.
(Hate to bring outside politics into this, but... BBC3 launched the week before the massive anti-Iraq war demos and three months before Radio 4's Today programme cast doubt on the case for war. The consequences of this included the loss of the BBC's chair and director general. If this isn't a lingering cause of what's going on now, it's certainly context. Politics may even have hobbled BBC3 from the off - look at the conditions placed on the channel when it finally got the go-ahead: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/2263541.stm
Post-Hutton report, the swaggering BBC was a distant memory. Its political backing had gone. And maybe then the life started ebbing out of BBC3 - the 2007 licence fee settlement ushered in the era of ongoing cuts that the BBC's still living in now, and may never escape. The BBC3 with studio shows and music shows was finished way back then.
Towards the end of its life, BBC3's risk-taking seemed to go more into documentaries - which aren't going to be as fondly remembered as the comedies, by their nature, unless they're Louis Theroux-style exceptional (and BBC2 had him five years before BBC3 started).
As a linear channel with few political friends and a dwindling budget, it's probably a merciful death.
But as a commissioning unit that can liven up BBC1 and (more importantly) BBC2, it could be a good thing. They'll have to learn lessons from the past (and that'll include cutting crap web text content like the Daily Drop, just like BBC3's crap web stuff was cut in the mid-00s).
But maybe there's a bit of room there to go back to the experimental spirit they aimed for 13 years ago. I hope there is and they get it right this time. Yes, I'm an optimist.
I'll still be watching the last Family Guy rerun on broadcast BBC3 next week, mind...