Channel 4 has confirmed that it is interested in joining Britbox, the new streaming platform announced last month by BBC and ITV.
The service, which already exists in the USA, is a joint effort by the two British broadcasters to compete with the rise of VOD rivals such as Netflix. The duo have almost finished talks to officially launch the service this year, providing subscribers with a selection of British boxsets all in one place. A similar plan, codenamed Project Kanjaroo, failed to gain any traction a decade ago, with the Competition Commission blocking the cross-broadcaster partnership. Now, with Netflix and other subscription services proving increasingly popular, broadcasters are fighting for their market share in the online space.
It’s a tricky balance for them to strike, as they will retain recent series on their existing catch-up services (BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub), with a focus more on older, archive material, such as Broadchurch. Nonetheless, they’re pushing ahead, and look to have support from Channel 4 too.
Speaking at a conference this week, CEO Alex Mahon confirmed that talks were underway.
“Of course, we are having positive and constructive discussions with ITV and the BBC about how Channel 4 could partner with them to build the scale of BritBox,” said Mahon. “Internationally, we are pooling our reach with ProSieben, TF1 and Mediaset in the European Broadcasting Exchange to sell across borders.”
BritBox: BBC and ITV confirm plans for UK Netflix rival
27th February 2019
The BBC and ITV have confirmed their plans to bring a new streaming service, Britbox, to the UK, in a big to compete with the ride of VOD rivals such as Netflix.
BritBox has already launched in the USA, giving American viewers access to a host of UK TV shows for $6.99 a month. Now, the Beeb and ITV have agreed a joint vision for the service to do the same for UK audiences and are working on a formal legal agreement, with talks now nearing conclusion.
The plan is provide a new platform with an unrivalled collection of British boxsets and original series, all on-demand, all in one place. The announcement of the service’s UK launch arrives around a decade after similar plans for a platform, codenamed Project Kanjaroo, failed to gain any traction, with the Competition Commission blocking the cross-broadcaster partnership. Now, with Netflix and other subscription services proving increasingly popular, broadcasters are fighting for their market share in the online space.
The BBC and ITV anticipate that other partners will be added to BritBox in the future, while brand new commissions from British production companies specifically for BritBox would also be on the cards. More recent series, though, would remain on the catch-up services (BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub), keeping the focus on older, archive material.
ITV and BBC will speak to regulators and the wider industry about their proposals, but are buoyed by their current success Stateside, with over half a million subscribers signed up to BritBox. Research commissioned by ITV shows that desire for British content is substantial, with 43 per cent of all online homes interested in subscribing to a new SVOD service which features British content. This increases to over 50% in homes with a Netflix subscription. This would be in addition to their current subscriptions.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, comments: “I am really pleased that ITV and the BBC are at the concluding stage of discussions to launch a new streaming service. 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.”
BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, adds: “I am delighted that the BBC and ITV are working together on something truly special – BritBox. 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.”
BritBox UK is expected to launch in the second half of 2019, with pricing not yet confirmed, but said to be “competitive”. In the meantime, consumers who are interested can register accounts now at www.britbox.co.uk.
BBC, Channel 4 and ITV hold talks to form Netflix rival
8th May 2018
The BBC, Channel 4 and ITV have reportedly held talks about joining together to form their own subscription streaming service.
This is not the first time the UK’s public service broadcasters have looked to rival Netflix: in 2007, BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 attempted to team up for something dubbed “Project Kangaroo”, only for authorities to block the partnership, due to concerns that it would threaten competition in the then-fledgling VOD sector. Then, in 2016, the BBC and ITV held talks to launch their own SVOD platform, with NBC Universal (producers of Downton Abbey) also involved. The government gave that plan the green light, with its White Paper ahead of the Beeb’s new Royal Charter welcoming the idea of “some form of additional subscription services” as a way to help the BBC raise funds.
The talks, though, didn’t come to fruition – at least, not for British viewers. In the US, the BBC and ITV launched their own Netflix rival called BritBox at the end of 2016. That had international ambitions, with AMC Networks also having a minority interest in the venture, but a UK expansion never took place.
Now, something similar could once again be in the works, with The Guardian reporting that the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are having new discussions about a potential streaming partnership. The talks are in the very early stages, although the newspaper says that NBC are once again attached.
“All options are open, they are early conversations and no direction is firm yet,” an anonymous source told the paper. “But they know a video-on-demand platform play would be a true defence for the UK creative industries.”
Indeed, since Kangaroo was put down by the government, living rooms have been transformed by the rise of VOD services, with Netflix now racking up 8.2 million subscribers and Amazon Prime Video 4.3 million, according to Barb. While BBC iPlayer’s far and away the most popular and recognised streaming service – and is currently enjoying its best ever first quarter in 2018 – research has also warned that the Beeb could be overtaken by Netflix, particularly among young audiences, as the streaming landscape becomes increasingly competitive.
“My understanding is that it is a bit of a dusting off of Kangaroo, which was a good idea that should never have been blocked. Look at where the market is now,” another source told The Guardian. “Think of it as Kangaroo-plus. Sort of a public service broadcaster domestic competitor to Netflix, but potentially with the flexibility to be broader than that.”
While ITV and Channel 4 have recently appointed new chief executives, though, the history of these talks suggests that there could be some way to go – and, indeed, might not happen at all.