BBC and ITV launch BritBox streaming service to rival Netflix and Amazon

19 July 2019

The service will provide subscribers with access to the broadcasters’ vast archive of comedies, dramas, documentaries and soaps

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The BBC and ITV are teaming up to launch a new streaming service later this year to compete with Netflix and Amazon.

BritBox will be priced at £5.99 a month, making it the same price as the cheapest Netflix monthly subscription.

 It is expected to launch between October and December.

Reality shows like Love Island and dramas like Gentleman Jack will be among some of the newer titles on the service.

The service will also include series like Gavin and Stacey, Victoria, Broadchurch, The Office and Benidorm once the licences with other streamers end.

New shows will also be commissioned for Britbox which should be available next year.

BBC director general, Tony Hall, says: “With a remit to be daring and different, many future classics will be commissioned and live on BritBox for the future.

“These are exciting times for people who love quality TV.  Importantly, these shows will be truly British, showcasing our culture and telling distinctive stories. It’s what makes real British TV so special.”

The new service will not replace iPlayer or the ITV Hub, which currently only have programmes available on catch-up for a limited time.

Why is BritBox being launched?

The BBC and ITV are looking to get a foothold in an extremely competitive market which includes Amazon, Now TV and Netflix. Disney, Apple and HBO are also launching services later in the year.

The service will allow ITV and the BBC to compete on an equal footing with these streamers as well as make money from their back catalogues.

By pooling all their content together, the BBC and ITV can offer a better service than they would be able to if they did it alone.

The broadcasters originally tried launching a streaming service – known as Project Kangaroo - 10 years ago, but it was blocked by the regulator.

One of the big reasons for the launch of the service is that viewing habits are changing.

Terrestrial channels are losing viewers, with many jumping ship to streaming services.

While the BBC was one of the first broadcasters to launch a streaming service, iPlayer has seen its market share drop from 40% to 15%.

Nearly 40% of UK households now subscribe to Netflix, Now TV or Amazon Prime, according to broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

Traditional broadcasters are also seeing a decline in younger audiences, many of whom no longer watch live TV and prefer to watch online.

Britbox already exists as a service in the USA. Two years after the launch of the service in America it now has over 650,000 US subscribers and shows classics such as Dad's Army as well as soaps like Coronation Street 24 hours after they are first broadcast.

What programmes will be available on BritBox?

Programmes on ITV and the BBC will move onto Britbox as soon as they come out of their broadcast and catch-up windows, providing viewers with hundreds of hours of new content every year.

Currently, the BBC is only allowed to show programmes for up to 30 days after they have been broadcast, although it looks like this will soon be extended by up to a year.

Many of these shows will be exclusive through BritBox and the flow of programmes will ensure that content is refreshed every week.

The service will also provide subscribers access to the broadcasters’ vast archive of comedies, dramas, documentaries and soaps.

This means you will be able to watch classic programmes such as Planet Earth, the Jewel in the Crown or Doctor Who.

BritBox is also commissioning original content and the first new show is expected to be available in 2020. 

Dani Warner, TV expert at uSwitch.com, says the challenge for the service will be to convince viewers to pay for content they have already paid for once with the licence fee.

He says: “BritBox will offer a considerably broader catalogue than either iPlayer or ITV Hub currently have available, which is the argument for the additional fee on top of the normal TV licence fee and, at £5.99 a month, costs less than its rivals.

“The hope for the BBC and ITV is that BritBox will enable them to keep the premium content they create, such as Bodyguard, which was produced by ITV, screened by the BBC but now streams on rival service Netflix.”

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