Channel 4 joins BritBox as broadcasters take on Netflix
Staff Reporter | On 07, Nov 2019Reading time: 18 mins
Channel 4 has joined BritBox just in time for the launch of the new streaming service.
A joint venture from the BBC and ITV, BritBox is a subscription platform aiming to push back against the competition of the SVOD giants that have established themselves in living rooms across the country. While they have previously become a collecting point for BBC, Channel 4 and ITV archives, the public service broadcasters are looking to bring back some eyeballs to their own services – not just their catch-up apps but a new platform to appeal to a generation now used to paying for things monthly.
Priced at £5.99 a month, the service offers BBC and ITV programmes once they’ve departed their respective catch-up services or licences on other SVOD platforms expire, with box sets ranging from Victoria and Happy Valley to Broadchurch, Les Miserables, Downton Abbey and Love Island. A desk with Viacom has also added factual and entertainment content from Channel 5 plus original British comedies from Comedy Central UK, with box sets from Channel 5 appearing on BritBox following a 30 day catch-up window on the My5 service.
Now, after a long period of negotiations, Channel 4 has also boarded the venture to bring TV box sets 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, for the first time to any streamer that isn’t All 4, an exclusive Film4 curated service featuring iconic British films.
The agreement arrives just in time for BritBox’s launch today, although subscribers will have to wait to see the end result: All 4 will bring its content 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.
The agreement provides a major piece of the puzzle required to make BritBox’s strategy work: scale. With all the main public service broadcasters on board, BritBox becomes a more viable proposition in a landscape where some viewers may balk at the idea of a subscription offering given that many already pay a TV License fee to access content the first time around on live linear TV and BBC iPlayer. With the collected archives of each broadcaster under its belt, though, BritBox can position itself as a more comprehensive and valuable repository of remembered and forgotten favourites.
In 2007, BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 attempted to team up for something similar dubbed “Project Kangaroo”, only for authorities to block the partnership, due to concerns that it would threaten competition in the then-fledgling VOD sector. Fast forward two decades and Channel 4’s deal may be the spring in the step BritBox needs to get the jump on the competition.
For more on the BritBox launch, click here.
BritBox lines up management team for launch
9th October 2019
BritBox is lining up its management team as the streaming service gets ready to launch.
The team is led by Reemah Sakaan who has expanded her BritBox US and CA role to become Group Director SVOD – ITV and is responsible for leading the UK launch. Reemah reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s Director of Television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.
Reemah is joined by Amy Jones, who previously worked across co-productions and acquisitions at Amazon Prime Video and is overseeing commissions, acquisition and scheduling for the streamer.
Amy Townsend, previously Marketing Director at NOW TV, has joined the team as Director of Consumer Marketing and Head of Product Lee Marshall, who previously led product for ITV Hub, is responsible for the new service’s product build.
Steve Waterman, also formerly from NOW TV, has taken the helm as Head of Research, Insight & Data, while ITV technology stalwart Thomas Thomas heads up Technology and Operations.
Tom Price is Director of Commercial and Financial Planning, bringing experience from the creation of BritBox US and as a Director of Cirkus, and Neill Torbit, former Lead Creative at Sky, completes the group as Creative Lead.
The BritBox venture and management team is supported by a dedicated executive team which is working to ensure the smooth launch of the service.
Reemah Sakaan comments:
“With a talented team of subscription, streaming and digital experts alongside the best of ITV and BBC’s content expertise, we are looking forward to delivering the breakthrough launch of BritBox over the coming months; it truly is a service that brings the best of British creativity together.”
BritBox will cost £4.99 a month and is currently available in beta testing mode.
Channel 5 and Comedy Central join BritBox UK line-up
24th September 2019
A deal has been struck between Britbox and Viacom-owned Channel 5 and Comedy Central which will see hundreds of additional hours of each channels’ best British content available on the UK platform from launch.
A joint venture from the BBC and ITV, the subscription streaming service launches later this year with the aim of pushing back against the competition of Netflix and other SVOD players. While they have previously become a collecting point for BBC, Channel 4 and ITV archives, the public service broadcasters are looking to bring back some eyeballs to their own services – not just their catch-up apps but a whole new platform to appeal to a generation now used to paying for things by month.
The new deal adds to the existing plans to offer BBC and ITV content once they’ve departed their respective catch-up services or licences on other SVOD platforms expire, including Victoria, Happy Valley, Broadchurch, Les Miserables, Downton Abbey, Love Island, Famalam, Cleaning Up, Gentleman Jack, Gavin & Stacey, The Office and Benidorm.
The agreement brings high quality factual and entertainment content from Channel 5 plus original British comedies from Comedy Central UK, with box sets from Channel 5 appearing on BritBox following a 30 day catch-up window on the My5 service.
Reemah Sakaan, Group Launch Director for ITV SVOD, comments: “We are thrilled to announce that another British Public Service Broadcaster is joining BritBox, ensuring that we offer viewers the very best of British creativity across a variety of genres.”
Arran Tindall, Senior Vice President, Commercial & Content Distribution, Viacom International Media Networks, adds: “Under Viacom’s ownership we have significantly increased Channel 5’s investment in original UK content and we’re delighted to bring our popular homegrown content to an even wider audience through BritBox, alongside a selection of Comedy Central’s much-loved UK programming.”
BritBox says it is in discussions with other partners to provide content, with talks with Channel 4 previously reported to be under way. BritBox will be available for £5.99 per month in HD and across multiple screens and devices.
BritBox: BBC and ITV officially unveil UK launch plans and price
19th July 2019
BritBox is officially a go in the UK, with ITV and the BBC finally signing an agreement to launch the subscription service. The broadcasters have been locked in negotiations about the SVOD platform for some time, having launched something similar in the USA. But now, they have confirmed that it will launch in the fourth quarter of 2019.
The service will cost £5.99 a month for HD streaming across multiple screens and devices. For that, subscribers will get the largest collection of British boxsets. That will include shows recently broadcast on ITV and BBC, with titles confirmed for launch or soon after including Love Island, Famalam, Cleaning Up and Gentleman Jack. Older show’s will include Gavin And Stacey, Victoria, Happy Valley, Broadchurch, Les Miserables, The Office and Benidorm. All of BritBox’s content will arrive on the service after any licences with other platforms end.
ITV and the BBC will open up their archive of owned content to BritBox viewers. BritBox will be a multi-genre service, with a strong focus on drama boxsets. Both will also provide a new and regular flow of fresh programmes as soon as they come out of their broadcast and catch-up windows. Many of these shows will be exclusive to UK viewers through BritBox and the flow of programmes will ensure that the content on BritBox is refreshed every week.
One of the reported bones of contention during negotiations, though, is the fact that the BBC is about to extend its catch-up window to up to 12 months, which means many shows would live for free on BBC iPlayer for a year before coming to BritBox – a disparity that could unbalance the duo’s partnership, as well as limit the appeal of BritBox among potential subscribers. The pair have said that they will commit to building a distinctive library of content, not just by adding titles when existing licence agreements with other players expire but also by commissioning original content from British production companies. At present, though, no shows have yet been ordered and, by the time production is complete, would not be available until 2020.
BritBox will be an ITV-controlled venture, with the commercial broadcaster holding 90 per cent of the equity – the BBC has the option to increase its initial 10 per cent to 25 per cent over time, while ITV is allowed to bring additional investors on board.
BritBox will have its own dedicated management team led by Reemah Sakaan, Group Director ITV SVOD, responsible for making editorial decisions about the service content while also ensuring alignment with ITV’s and the BBC’s branding and editorial policies.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, says: “The agreement to launch BritBox is a milestone moment. Subscription video on demand is increasingly popular with consumers who love being able to watch what they want when they want to watch it. They are also happy to pay for this ease of access to quality content and so BritBox is tapping into this, and a new revenue stream for UK public service broadcasters.
“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.
“We are committed to making BritBox UK a great success. Discussions continue with other content and distribution partners and we are looking forward to making further announcements in the coming months.”
BBC Director General, Tony Hall, adds: “We have a world beating TV industry with outstanding content. The BBC and ITV are at the centre of that. 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.
“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.”
ITV and the BBC have agreed to support the launch of BritBox with a high-profile marketing and promotional campaign and will also look at how best to connect viewers between BritBox, ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer.
BBC and ITV navigate rocky road to Britbox
28th May 2019
The road to Britbox is proving rockier than expected, as talks between BBC and ITV have reportedly hit something of a speed bump.
The subscription streaming service was announced earlier this year as a joint venture between the two broadcasting giants, a coordinated attempt to take on the growing competition from platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. In March, the duo had almost finished talks to officially launch the service this year, providing subscribers with a selection of British boxsets all in one place. But a formal legal agreement to launch the site on British soil – it has already launched in the USA – is no simple thing, as proven by the fact that a similar plan, codenamed Project Kanjaroo, failed to gain any traction a decade ago.
Indeed, the FT has now reported that the pair have hit a snag in their negotiations, with sources saying that ITV is the only one to have pledged money towards the venture.
The commercial broadcaster announced in its first quarter results recently that it would contribute £65 million to the effort. For ITV, it’s a big investment in what will be a difficult juggling act: as its business relies on advertising income, there is a serious risk that the subscription model could cannibalise its own revenue, in a way that’s not dissimilar to the threat already posed by Netflix. Analysts at Berenberg have predicted that Britbox won’t be profitable until 2024, and is unlikely to contribute to ITV’s bottom line until 2023.
The main question for ITV is how to manage its content windows: if it releases shows on Britbox too close to their linear ITV broadcast, it could see subscriptions use but as spend on its traditional channels fall. If the focus is on older titles, meanwhile, Britbox could eat into the library used as the meat and potatoes for its secondary channels, ITV 2, 3 and 4, or, ironically, eat into the revenue currently earned by selling its archives to Netflix. Factor in the positioning of ITV Hub+, its ad-free subscription version of free catch-up service ITV Hub, and you have one of most complicated balancing acts facing any broadcaster today.
ITV is apparently confident in the potential for Britbox to exist alongside ITV Hub – the broadcaster is working on an upgrade to its own platform to offer more personalised, programmatic advertising to viewers. But the BBC is also in the midst of beefing up its own iPlayer offering, looking to extend the window its content is available to a standard 12 months – a shift from 30 days that has started to be implemented by the Beeb, but has since been halted by Ofcom, subject to assessment on the basis of fair competition. That 12-month window would mean that iPlayer would retain BBC content for a year before it migrated to Britbox, which could put the Beeb’s strategy at odds with ITV’s approach.
BBC and ITV have not commented on the ongoing negotiations, but the reported stumbling block in their talks highlights the difficulty in positioning and launching the new platform in an ever-shifting, rapidly evolving market. You can read more about what sources have told the FT here.
BritBox: Channel 4 interested in joining BBC and ITV’s subscription service
15th March 2019
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.