Britbox: What is it and will it be able to compete with rivals like Netflix?

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The BBC and ITV are proposing a new joint streaming service for the UK to take on the might of Netflix and Amazon. New commissions, recent shows and old British favourites will feature on the BritBox platform. But what exactly is it and can it really take on its rivals?

Why are the BBC and ITV proposing a streaming service?

Streaming has been gradually eating into traditional broadcast television viewing numbers for several years.

Last year, regulator Ofcom revealed that subscriptions for TV streaming services overtook pay-TV services for the first time.

Christmas Day, which was once a highlight of the broadcast TV calendar, started to experience a downward trend around the turn of the century, emphasising broadcasters’ need to innovate.

At its peak, shows on Christmas Day would attract more than 21 million viewers, including Crocodile Dundee in 1989 and Only Fools And Horses in 2001. However, in 2018 the best performing show, Call The Midwife, only achieved 8.7 million.

Christmas TV ratings
(PA Graphics)

 

Will this have an impact on the iPlayer and ITV Hub?

There is no current indication whether the proposals will have an impact on the iPlayer or ITV Hub.

BritBox will be a paid-for subscription service with new content, whereas the iPlayer and ITV Hub are primarily free catch-up services.

BBC iPlayer
iPlayer (Nick Ansell/PA)

Are there other streaming platforms in the pipeline?

Apple has been long-rumoured to be launching its own video streaming platform, while Disney and WarnerMedia are currently working on plans in the US.

How much will it cost?

Exact pricing is yet to be confirmed, but the BBC and ITV said it will be “competitive”.

A basic plan for Netflix currently costs £5.99 per month, while Amazon Prime Video is £7.99. An Entertainment pass for TV shows on Now TV costs £7.99, while its movie offering costs £9.99.

What does this mean for the licence fee?

TV License
(Andy Hepburn/PA)

“The BBC is still charging people for a TV licence, an issue that has become a talking point in the face of rival services that, on paper, offer what they need; can they really start charging people extra to pay for the streaming service on top without triggering an exodus?” said Mark Pocock, from broadbandchoices.co.uk.

“With this new commercial focus, will there be a drop in quality of the programmes BBC licence payers currently pay to enjoy, with the bigger, sexier programming being reserved for those who pay to keep up with the original programming seeing heavy investment from Amazon and Netflix?

“They are currently claiming their newest programming will go to licence holders and iPlayer first, but whether they stick to this will only be revealed in the fullness of time and any programming that may be funded by licence payers’ money will be contentious if they aren’t given access.”

Who are the main rivals?

BritBox will have to contend with Netflix, Amazon and Sky’s Now TV, which already have a foot in the British streaming market.

When will it launch?

Both broadcasters are hoping to launch the service in the second half of 2019.

Tech Digest Correspondent
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