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BritBox streaming service goes live in UK with Channel 4 now on board

Channel 4 joins the SVOD service at 11th hour

by Andy Bassett

BritBox, the streaming service created by main players BBC and ITV and formed to offer a UK-centric alternative to rivals such as Netflix, Apple TV+ and Disney+, has launched across the UK.

ITV, who have a majority 90 percent stake in the venture, made the launch announcement on Thursday 6th November.

Already an ongoing service in the US and Canada since 2017, the new UK version of BritBox also has partnerships with Channel 5, BT and now, due to long standing negotiations that have come to fruition at the very last moment, Channel 4 has come on board, bringing with it over 1,000 hours of programming along with its Film4 content for 2020.

The deal means that all four of the UK’s traditional channels will have content available for streaming from a single point of delivery.

BritBox partner, BT also announced that it had struck a deal to make BritBox available to the millions of customers of its EE mobile phone arm as well as those who subscribe to its pay-TV service, which broadcasts programming such as Champions League football.

The service aims to bring British flavoured drama, comedies, film and documentaries to viewers and will include popular shows such as Downton Abbey, Gavin & Stacey, Wolf Hall, Love Island and Broadchurch at launch. 
The service will cost £5.99 per month (after a 30 day free trial) and there is no contract to adhere to so viewers can join and leave as they wish on a month by month basis. At the more affordable end of the charging spectrum, the monthly fee includes HD content and access to the material on multiple screens.

A large proportion of content will be classic series but recently broadcast offerings will also be made available after they have been on the broadcasters' own catch-up services. For the BBC this will mean shows may take up to a year to hit BritBox now that Ofcom has approved the BBC’s plans to extend its show's stay on the iPlayer service for up to 12 months. This will affect recent hit shows including Bodyguard and Killing Eve.

As with other new and upcoming streaming services, the UK broadcasters have been recalling their older properties which were available on current streaming platforms with the intention of making them exclusive to BritBox.

Reemah Sakaan, ITV's group director for streaming, told the BBC, “For some time we've been bringing our shows back home and now that we've got a destination in BritBox, that's something we'll be doing more actively. We'll still be working in partnership with Netflix and Amazon and all of the other streamers."

In addition, original programming is planned, with the first show called Lambs of God - this has already been shown over the summer in Australia. Britbox bosses have promised that there is a "whole slate of original programmes" in development for the service.

The service creators are keen to stress that BritBox is not a direct competitor to the likes of Netflix and Apple TV Plus but rather an alternative to these heavily US flavoured services.

Launched in time to capitalise on the warm nostalgia that surfaces around Christmas time bosses revealed that "all 627 available episodes of classic Doctor Who, originally broadcast between 1963 and 1989, 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."

Said Sakaan: "BritBox is all about bringing together the best of British creativity and talent in a new digital world. 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."

Britbox has managed to get its launch in mere days after Apple TV+ became available in the UK and no doubt, November 2019 will be looked back on as the point at which TV broadcasting took a notable shift towards a new way of distributing content to consumers.

Let us know your thoughts on BritBox. Are you planning to subscribe? Is the thought of all classic Doctor Who episodes in one place too hard to resist or are you more interested in looking forward rather than back with new and original programming from the likes of Netflix and Apple TV Plus?

Source: www.bbc.co.uk, www.hollywoodreporter.com, www.guardian.com
Image Source: BritBox.co.uk, The Sun
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