Broadcasters ITV and the BBC are joining forces to launch their own UK based streaming service BritBox between October and December of this year.
The service is thought to rival other already highly available services such as Netflix, and will showcase series such as Gavin and Stacey, Broadchurch, Love Island and Gentleman Jack.
New programmes will also be showcased, made especially for Britbox in the year following its release. Other existing series are thought to be made available including Benidorm (currently being shown by Netflix), Les Miserables, Victoria and The Office.
At the moment, the price for BritBox in HD will cost £5.99 per month; a fee that will cover multiple screens and devices, which a spokesperson has stated is much less than what other streaming services charge for the same or a similar service.
For example, Netflix charge £5.99 per month for their basic package, but this rises to £8.99 for a standard plan including HD on two screens, and then becomes £11.99 for four screen simultaneous viewing.
Amazon Prime currently charges £5.99 for the use of up to three screens simultaneously, and NOW TV charges £7.99 for their entertainment pass – with optional extras such as a cinema pass costing £11.99, kids pass £3.99 and a sports pass at £33.99. Meanwhile YouTube premium stands at £11.99.
Britbox priced cheaply to entice new customers but is it enough?
Given what prices are already in use, BritBox stands in a serious bid to be a successful candidate, as the way we watch television is constantly changing and developing.
Many BBC and ITV programmes will transition to BritBox after they have been broadcast on television and become part of the broadcasters’ current catch up and on demand services – BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub.
Soon it is expected the BBC will get permission from regulator Ofcom, to keep showing series on iPlayer for one year as standard protocol after their first release on television.
While recent and completely new shows will be available on BritBox, it will also become a hub for classic British television. With thousands of classic dramas, documentaries and comedies ready to be revisited or discovered.
Given that many of the shows on BBC and ITV are in fact made by independent production companies, who therefore own the rights to the content, they may not choose to sell their product to BritBox – meaning some shows could still end up on Netflix or other services which could be a cause for some turmoil. Something which has previously happened with hit show, Peaky Blinders.
Shows such as Happy Valley are thought to be moving from Netflix to BritBox, but again, this comes down to what the owner of the content chooses to do with the product.
Despite the introduction of BritBox, the BBC and Netflix will continue to co-produce programmers together as a way of sharing costs – especially when it comes to big budget dramas. While this is ongoing, the director general of the BBC Tony Hall expressed that BritBox was: “The prime place in which we want our material to end up.” With that being said BritBox will have to be seriously impressive to leave the financial safety of Netflix behind.
Haven’t we already paid for BBC porgrammes through the licence fee?
Confusion to viewers comes through the fact they have, on some level, already paid for the use of BBC services via the TV licence costs. Hall has stated that BritBox is a similar system to that of releasing a programme on DVD and therefore the TV licence does not cover the use of BritBox.
“That was the BBC saying, there’s a secondary market – you pay for content after we’ve shown it,” he explained. “This is just a modern-day version of that, and an even better version of that, because it used to be infuriating when you’d seen a programme on the BBC and you couldn’t get hold of the DVD.
“Any money the corporation makes will be put back in to programme-making. I think this is wins all round for the licence fee payers.”
The annual budget for BritBox to create its own content is thought to be within the tens of millions of pounds, which although sounds rather exciting, does not yet compare to the alleged $12 billion (£9.5bn) Netflix spent on original programming last year.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the broadcasters are wanting to implement this now, with the release of Disney+ and AppleTV in the pipeline. In fact, BBC and ITV were trying to launch something very similar a decade ago but were stopped by regulators. Now they are having to play catch up with their heavyweight rivals.
As the game of catch up commences, the UK based streamer has some immense chasing to do, with Netflix having more than 150 million subscribers worldwide. However, in the last week Netflix saw its share price plummet. With fewer viewers than expected returning to/joining Netflix in the last three months it is believed that rises in prices are to blame.
BritBox has already been launched in North America back in 2017, showing programmes such as Poirot, Only Fools and Horses and Midsomer Murders. It now has 650,000 subscribers ahead of its British release, and has been described by ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall to be “exceeding its targets.”
She went on to state the British launch will be a “a milestone moment” , and ultimately BritBox will bring forth a new way to attract newcomers as well as make money.
“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 will own 90% of the new BritBox service, while the BBC’s initial stake is 10%, but this could rise to 25% given time.
Is this the beginning of the end of the TV licence?
People have been left wondering if this will be the end of the TV licence, with BBC changing from a fee-funded organisation to a subscription model, but Lord Hall has insisted that is not the case: “The fundamental funding for the future must be through the licence fee.”
It is believed that people will want to sign up to the new service and there is a “growing customer demand in the UK for streaming services,” according to a recent press release. The release also stated that people will want to subscribe to BritBox due it to being so “uniquely British.”
As it stands, 5 million homes have more than one subscription TV service, am impressive growth of 34% each year.
Ashely Highfield, a former BBC executive, has explained that he thought the monthly price for BritBox was “about right,” and that he believes subscribers will come forth via numbers in the “low millions”.
“I don’t think they think it’s something that’s going to take over from Netflix. It’s probably going to rub alongside.”
Emma Bullimore, a TV critic, regarded how she thought asking viewers to pay for mainly old content would be “quite tough”. When speaking to the BBC she explained: “I think in the long term it’s going to be a success. In the short term I think it’s going to be a bit of a struggle.”
“It is bad news for TV fans in that we’re going to have to pay for loads of individual subscriptions. Now, most people have their TV, maybe they have Sky and Netflix – whereas if you have to pay for Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BritBox… it’s going to get quite expensive.”
Broadcasting analyst, Tom Harrington, from Enders Analysis stated that there is “certainly a market for great British content”, but did debate that BritBox could be a tough sell.
“You’re going to get a lot of content that you’ve seen before, content that you think you might have paid for before, and content that’s been free for possibly a year on iPlayer. Why people sign up for services is usually for new, original content, and there will be a paucity of that on this service.
“Its budget for original programming and technology will not rival those of the US streaming giants. It’s not going to be a Netflix killer. It won’t take over Amazon in any way. What it will be is an almost niche service alongside those two, at best.”
Although the future and success of BritBox remains a mystery, it seems a shame that it lost its chance a decade ago, when it could have been something revolutionary.
Either way, with a relatively cheap cost behind it, let us hope that BritBox is the success its creators believe it can be, and from its revenue it can create some fantastic, British television.