BritBox announces firmer plans for streaming service

Signed, sealed, almost delivered but no sign of Channel 4

by Andy Bassett Jul 19, 2019 at 11:17 AM

  • The initial announcement of a planned UK launch for BritBox was back in Feb 2019. Now the partnership between BBC and ITV appears to have been officially signed off and the service is being readied for a Q4 2019 launch.
    Aiming to be a riposte to the relentless march of streaming services both current and imminent, and a repository to showcase the depth, breadth and quality of British produced content, BritBox now looks set to take off between October and December this year.

    The ad-free, HD streaming service - there’s no mention of 4K or HDR capabilities - will cost £5.99 per month, making it one of the cheaper options available and positioning it nicely against streamers that have recently increased their subscription fees or are planning to launch in a higher price bracket. Multiple screens and devices will be supported, so the overall package appears to be reasonable value.

    As well as the self-proclaimed largest library of boxsets of classic archival material, the service is planning to produce original content as early as next year, alongside hugely popular shows such as Broadchurch, Gavin and Stacey, Love Island, The Office and Happy Valley.

    Britbox plans to pick up shows once they have been broadcast on television and after they have moved on from the relevant free catch up services. This last factor created some concern during negotiations since the BBC is now likely to hold onto its content for up to a year on its iPlayer service, now that Ofcom looks set to approve the move.

    This discrepancy between the ITV Hub catch up service’s 30 day availability and the BBC’s proposed 12 months retention period might explain why it’s reported that ITV has a controlling 90% stake in the service. As it stands, the BBC will contribute to the development of the core purposes and strategic direction of the venture and has the option of increasing its stake in the venture from 10 percent to 25 percent, going forward.

    Whether the asymmetric ownership will have an influence over the balance of programmes curated is not known. Interestingly, despite rumours of Channel 4’s intended involvement, there is now no mention of the broadcaster and the assumption must be that the negotiations came to nothing.

    An attempt by the BBC and ITV to launch something similar took place a decade ago but was blocked by regulators. The decision to now approve such a plan just shows how much the broadcasting landscape has changed in the last 10 years and Ofcom have deemed the BBC’s involvement is unlikely to distort the market and Britbox is unlikely to gain an unfair competitive advantage as a result.

    ITV's CEO, Carolyn McCall, called the launch "a milestone moment" for viewers.

    She added, "ITV and BBC have made, and continue to make, the programmes that both reflect and shape British culture and creativity. We now look forward to working together to launch the largest collection of British boxsets ever – bringing the very best in past, present and future British programming and award-winning content to viewers all in one place."

    Talking about BBC and ITV’s contribution to British broadcasting, Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, said, "Together, we have been responsible for delivering the majority of 'must-see' moments on British TV over the last decade. That 'must-see' content will now be on BritBox.”

    He further added, "But this service isn't just about the past. I am really excited about the new shows it will commission. With a remit to be daring and different, many future classics will be commissioned and live on BritBox for the future.”

    Will this latest entry to the streaming market factor on AVForums member's radar? Will the possibility of permanent access to classic ‘Doctor Who’ episodes be worth £6 a month or are you looking forward to new content too? Does this complicate the decisions over the choice of other services? Let us know in the discussion thread.

    Image Source: Celtic Canada, Royal Television Society

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