BritBox officially launches in the UK
James R | On 07, Nov 2019
BritBox, the streaming service created by BBC and ITV, has officially gone live in the UK today, as the public service broadcasters team up to take on Netflix.
The subscription VOD platform launched quietly in beta testing mode last month but now, it’s publicly open for business. The pricing, as with the beta version, remains at £5.99 a month in HD across multiple devices, and the catalogue is still centred on British boxsets with homegrown talent.
Today, though, BritBox has confirmed a vital boost to its line-up, with Channel 4 boarding the venture to bring 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, for the first time to any streamer that isn’t All 4, 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.
EE will be the exclusive mobile partner for BritBox, while Samsung will be the first TV to launch the BritBox app and together, Samsung and BritBox have agreed a co-marketing partnership that will see BritBox featured as a “Recommended App” on Samsung Smart TVs.
BritBox boasts a claim to have the biggest collection of British box-sets available in one place. As teased with the beta launch’s snapshot of content, the library includes all six seasons and specials of Downton Abbey, all three seasons of Broadchurch, seven seasons of Only Fools and Horses, three seasons of Gavin & Stacey and both seasons of Extras. BritBox will also be the home of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot, and reality fans will be able to enjoy all the past seasons of Love Island.
BBC exclusives coming to BritBox in the next six months include The Great British Bake Off (1-7), Les Miserables and The Split. Shows including The Office, Happy Valley and Doctor Foster will also become available on the service, along with others as existing licence agreements with other players expire.
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 this year, including animated recreations of missing episodes using the original soundtrack, and the original pilot from 1963.
Available today is BritBox’s exclusive drama Lambs Of God, starring Emmy- Award-winning Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale), Jessica Barden (The End Of The F***ing World) and Essie Davis (The White Princess). Subscribers will get the first chance to see two brand-new never seen before episodes of Midsomer Murders (S20 episodes 5&6) from launch, ahead of their broadcast on ITV, along with every other episode from all 20 seasons.
Also available from today are recent ITV dramas A Confession and Manhunt, coming straight to BritBox after their catch-up window on the ITV Hub, as well as recent ITV and BBC titles The Trip, Deep Water, Wolf Hall, and Rev.
As well as titles from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, BritBox will also be streaming classic films, including some remastered into HD for the first time. During the first few months following launch, subscribers can enjoy Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, Powell & Pressburger’s Ill Met By Moonlight and David Lean’s Oliver Twist in high definition.
BritBox is available through web browsers and as an app on Apple TV, Samsung TVs and iOS and Android devices. Support for Freeview Play and YouView will be added this year. There is currently no support for Chromecast and there is no confirmation yet on apps for Fire TV and Roku, but BritBox says “more connected TV platforms and devices will be added in 2020”.
With Apple TV+ having to build its own identity and catalogue from scratch, BritBox has one key element in its arsenal: a brand identity and USP that can be easily defined. Whether that will be enough to compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, especially when BBC fans will essentially have to pay a second time after the TV Licence fee to access BBC shows, only time will tell. As the Christmas season of family binge-viewing approaches, though, the timing couldn’t be better for BritBox to enter living rooms.
Britbox beta version goes live in UK
30th September 2019
Britbox has gone live in the UK – almost – with a beta version of its streaming service now available to audiences.
A joint venture from the BBC and ITV, the subscription streaming service launches properly later this year with the aim of pushing back against the competition of Netflix and other SVOD players. Both broadcasters will add content to the platform once they’ve departed their respective catch-up services or once licences on other SVOD platforms have expired.
A recent deal with Viacom will also see factual and entertainment content from Channel 5 plus, British comedies from Comedy Central UK and box sets from Channel 5 appearing on BritBox following a 30 day catch-up window on the My5 service.
Now, just as Britbox signs its first distribution deals, the service has also gone live in testing mode over the weekend, giving what it tells users is a “snapshot” of what will be there during its full launch.
The library includes a range of BBC-broadcast programmes, such as The League of Gentleman, Little Dorrit, Spooks, W1A, That Mitchell and Webb Look, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Famalam, House of Cards, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and a various Michael Palin documentaries. ITV-aired content include Strangers, Vera, Doc Martin, The Bay, Cold Feet, Prime Suspect, Wild Bill, Safe House and Midsomer Murders.
The full library isn’t available to browse by name, but collections by talent range from Ronnie Barker, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Olivia Colman and Brian Cox to Christopher Eccleston, Keeley Hawes and Tom Hollander. Themed collections include “The Brit Pack: Stars Who Conquered Hollywood” and “Detective Double Acts”.
The result gives an indicator of what the plans are for the platform. “Watching ‘World On Fire’ on BBC One? Binge on more WW2-set programmes,” teases one collection of programmes such as The Halcyon, as the platform looks to capitalise on interest in current programming.
The beta launch comes after some backlash from independent TV players, with industry body Pact voicing concerns to Broadcast about the BBC’s use of its holdback policy. The Beeb plans to reduce its current holdback window, which requires independent production companies to get the BBC’s consent during its licence period before exploiting any secondary television and/or commercial video-on-demand rights deals in the UK. Currently at 18 months, the BBC plans to reduce this holdback window for qualifying services to 12 months, which would allow series to move straight to Britbox at the end of BBC iPlayer’s window.
Pact chief executive John McVay told Broadcast that producers were being given no choice but to sell to Britbox during that period, arguing that independent producers were being “thrown under the bus”.
“I want BritBox to be a commercial success if it can be but it should be run on sound commercial grounds,” McVay recently told Broadcast.
Red founder Nicola Shindler told Broadcast earlier this year that Britbox should pay the “going rate” if it is to secure the rights to third-party shows.
“No one has any objections to what they’re doing, so long as they pay for it,” she said.
Britbox’s beta version, however, does feature some third-party titles, such as Kudos’ Life on Mars and Hustle, Red’s Ordinary Lies, Hat Tricks’s Have I Got News for You?, Rise’s Plebs and Playground’s Wolf Hall.
As negotiations continue and issues are ironed out in the run-up to Britbox’s launch, the site’s beta testing allows the fledgling SVOD to start gathering users, as well as getting an idea of what people want. It also provides an opportunity to generate income, with Britbox costing £5.99 a month, contract-free – after a 30-day free trial.
The beta service is available on web browsers at britbox.co.uk, and on Android and iOS devices.