The BBC and ITV, the UK’s two largest broadcasters, are in the final stages of talks over the creation of a subscription-based streaming service to challenge Netflix in the UK. Britbox, which already has a version in the US & Canada, would bring together the extensive libraries of both broadcasters into one hub.
Reports of discussions involving the two major broadcasters, as well as Channel 4 and NBC Universal, surfaced in May 2018. At the time, it was unclear what direction a British TV-focused streaming service would take, but the expansion of Britbox was one of the ideas on the table. Now, that is set to become a reality.
“I am really pleased that ITV and the BBC are at the concluding stage of discussions to launch a new streaming service,” said Carolyn McCall, ITV CEO. “BritBox will be the home for the best of British creativity - celebrating the best of the past, the best of today and investing in new British originated content in the future.”
Britbox’s UK version looks like it will work in much the same way as its US counterpart, which now has over half amillion subscribers, according to the pair. The streaming service will provide a collection of British boxsets and original series – much of which the broadcasters have made sure is unavailable online, except for through their own respective iPlayer and ITV Player on-demand services.
“I am delighted that the BBC and ITV are working together on something truly special – BritBox,” said Tony Hall, BBC director-general. “A new streaming service delivering the best home-grown content to the public who love it best. The service will have everything from old favourites to recent shows and brand-new commissions. It’s an exciting time for the viewing public.”
A British TV-focused streaming service has long been in the works – and, by long, I mean over a decade. Way back in 2007, the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 came up with the idea of creating a video on-demand service codenamed ‘Project Kangaroo’. However, in 2009, the UK’s Competition Commission deemed that such as service would create a monopoly of the UK’s nascent video on-demand market.
Since then, the broadcasters have had to watch the US companies like Netflix and Amazon take the idea all over the world, including dominating the UK video on-demand market.
Britbox will present a belated opportunity for the BBC and ITV to set out on what they wanted to achieve 12 years ago. The pair expect the service to launch in the second half of 2019, assuming regulators approve the service this time round. Pricing of the service has not yet been confirmed but the broadcasters promise it will be ‘competitive. In the US, Britbox costs $6.99 a month.