UK streaming service BritBox sets Q4 debut with ‘must see’ British TV

UK streaming service
UK streaming service BritBox - a JV between ITV and BBC - is launching in Q4. The SVOD play will cost £5.99/mo.

Is the BritBox – the new UK streaming service from IBC and BBC set to launch in the United Kingdom – a Netflix killer? Not likely. But it’s a great example of broadcasters pooling resources to maintain a share of the market – the part Big Streaming hasn’t yet captured.

The service rolls out in Q4 and will cost just £5.99/mo. (US$7.51) a month. It’ll provide HD streams to multiple screens and devices and include the UK’s top programs from two great content mills. While it’s launching without any originals in production, the companies say there will be new content moving forward.

And, it’ll be ad-free.

UK audiences are moving to SVOD in large numbers. BritBox is looking to get in on that trend and supplement, not replace, Netflix. Netflix, which just raised prices in the UK, is expected to have 9.5 million subs there by 2020.

More than 13 million households in the UK already take at least one SVOD service, with data from Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board showing an increasing number of households are taking multiple subscriptions. BARB data shows the annual growth in homes with any SVOD service is 20%, while the growth in homes with multiple services is 34%. About 5 million homes now having more than one subscription.

UK streaming service with UK content

But BritBox has an advantage: it’s very good local content.

“ITV and BBC have made, and continue to make, the programs that both reflect and shape British culture and creativity,” said Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV. “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.”

McCall said other content and distribution partners could be joining BritBox, saying additional announcements would be forthcoming.

BBC Director General, Tony Hall said ITV and BBC “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.

“These are exciting times for people who love quality TV. Importantly, these shows will be truly British, showcasing our culture and telling distinctive stories.”

And, the demand is real, according to research from Differentology that shows desire for British content is high. Nearly half (44%) of the UK claiming they are likely to subscribe to a new SVOD service which features British content. More than half (54%) of UK Netflix subscribers claimed they would be likely to subscribe to the new proposed service. This would be predominantly in addition to their current subscriptions.

And, according to a YouGov survey, 22% of the UK population claim to be already aware of BritBox.

Netflix hasn’t stood still in one of its strongest international markets. The company is establishing its own UK film and TV production facility at Shepperton Studios, just outside of London in Surrey. Netflix also has studios and production facilities in Madrid.

Show me the money

Interestingly, this isn’t just a TV Everywhere play, it’s being set up as a semi-independent streaming play from the outset. BritBox will pay market rate fees for all content provided by ITV, BBC and other rights owners.

ITV and BBC will share resources to build BritBox, but ITV will initially hold 90% of the equity to BBC’s 10%. Both will contribute to the development of the core purposes and strategic direction of the venture, although ITV will have control of the overall direction.

The BBC can acquire up to 25% of the shares over time, and additional investors may come on board. ITV will be able to appoint a majority of the BritBox board while the BBC’s equity stake provides it with board representation from the outset.

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. Reemah reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s Director of Television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.

The bottom line

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s plenty of opportunity in the SVOD market; it’s far from saturated. Even in Netflix’s biggest, most developed market, consumers spend just 10% of their TV time with Netflix.

A UK streaming service that features UK content, especially of the quality ITV and BBC bring, is going to find a home in a vast number of households that already stream and may be the impetus needed for more to begin streaming.

The ITV and BBC mashup is a stellar example of how other broadcasters and – especially in the US – cable networks can combine their content to offer a quality streaming experience.

Content is king, but the consumers really are in charge and they want it streamed. All of it.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn