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Netflix and Amazon Prime Video rival Britbox opens for business

David Murphy

BritBox, the streaming service created by BBC and ITV, has launched today. It will offer classic British TV programmes from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 for a monthly subscription fee of £5.99.

The programme line-up includes all six series and specials of Downton Abbey; all three series of Broadchurch; seven series of Only Fools and Horses; three series of Gavin & Stacey; and both series of Extras, as well as all 627 available episodes of Doctor Who, whiich will be available to stream for the first time ever from Boxing Day, including animated recreations of missing episodes using the original soundtrack, and the original pilot from 1963.

The service will also feature exclusive programmes, the first of which is a drama, Lambs Of God, starring Emmy- Award-winning Ann Dowd, Jessica Barden and Essie Davis.

BritBox has also signed a partnership deal with Channel 4 for British TV boxsets from All 4 and British films from Film4. The three-year deal will see 1000+ hours from All 4, with a range of comedy, drama and non-scripted programmes from across the service, including new series, and an exclusive Film4-curated service featuring iconic British films. BritBox will bring All 4 to the service in Spring 2020, with new series being available 31 days following transmission of the last episode on Channel 4. Film4 will follow later in 2020.

Samsung will be the first TV maker to launch a TV with the BritBox app and Samsung and BritBox have agreed a co-marketing partnership that will see BritBox featured as a "Recommended App" on Samsung Smart TVs.

On the mobile front, BT is partnering with BritBox to create a range of products and offers that feature access to BritBox for millions of customers across its brands and services. As part of the deal EE will be the exclusive mobile partner for BritBox.

“BritBox is all about bringing together the best of British creativity and talent in a new digital world,” said Reemah Sakaan, group director for ITV SVOD. “Today’s launch and announcement of our partnership deals with Channel 4 and BT underline the quality and scale we want the service to embody. It’s wonderful to be bringing such a wealth of brilliant British TV and film to subscribers from today, and I’m looking forward to revealing our exciting, original commissions in the near future.”

Luke Bozeat, COO at MediaCom UK, said the move should help the UK broadcasters involved reach a younger audience. 

“With the launch of BritBox, Britain’s ‘traditional’ broadcasters enter the VOD market armed with an affordable price point, and a combination of exclusive new and classic shows that appeal to multiple generations," Bozeat said. "The eagerly awaited move is a clear attempt to be a competitor to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky’s Now TV, as well as incoming entrants Disney+, HBO Max and many more. It’s a necessary shift for all four UK broadcasters that have arguably failed to reach younger audiences who consume content on phones, laptops and tablets; Ofcom recently stated that the BBC needs to do much more to both attract and retain younger viewers.

“Increasingly, Netflix’s dominance is under threat; consumers will carefully pick which service best suits their needs, and they’ll vote with their wallets. But BritBox isn’t alone in the challenge to ensure their content isn’t a case of quantity over quality. As senior British talent like producer Chris Sussman (whose credentials include Fleabag & Bad Education) are poached by competitors, retaining home-grown talent will be crucial to increasing their share in the streaming sphere. This will only be possible through unmissable programming like hits Killing Eve and The Bodyguard. Britbox could well be the big break BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 need to flourish – provided they can all find the right mix of content old & new, originality and talent.”

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