The BBC and ITV, which are Britains two largest broadcasters, are looking to launch a rival platform to Netflix, in the UK. BritBox is already available in Canada and the United States, would bring a large amount of archive content to subscribers. But do we need another Netflix rival? Further, would this even be another Netflix rival? I mean, presumably the shows that they would be showing, wouldn’t necessarily be available on Netflix. That said, the BBC has indicated that they are working on a proposal with ITV with the hopes that other broadcasters will want to get involved as well. If this deal gets approved by regulators, this service could launch in the UK as early as the second half of 2019. That’s quick. Which means, these groups know what they’re doing and they’re able to get the project off the ground quickly.
I’ll ask the question again – would this actual be a Netflix rival? Maybe, maybe not. BritBox would be a platform that hosts an incredible backlog of British TV, that is currently unavailable – or it’s ver expensive. Both broadcasters have libraries 50 years deep, including groundbreaking drama, documentaries and comedy. Much of the material is unavailable online (legally), and only some of it is purchasable on DVD or available on re-runs through satellite TV.
The fact that the model already exists in the United States, means that much of the model for the platform is ready to go – including their $7/month subscription fee. Because the two broadcasters already own the licenses for much of their own content, this won’t be a big stretch for them, once they receive their approvals. The UK price has yet to be disclosed, but it’s expected to be “competitive,” and probably not exceed £7 a month, as a guess.
Here’s where it becomes a bit of a Netflix rival. They won’t just host archive content, but they also have plans to produce original series as well. It’s thought that those will be co-productions with the BBC and ITV themselves. And BritBox is already doing this, at least in the US. For example, they have contributed funding to the production of The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, which is a co-production of ITV and CityTV in Canada.
It’s likely that British broadcasters will feel miffed about the fact that they’re only now being able to propose a service like BritBox. Back in 2007, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 (which are the country’s three major broadcasters) proposed a service similar to Netflix, which would host over 10,000 hours of free, on-demand video, which would come from their three catalogues. Of course, this didn’t fly, which is why they’re back at the drawing table now.
After that attempt, plans were underway to launch a service by October 2009, but that was pulled after regulators at the UK’s Office of Fair Trading stepped in. The project was referred to the UK’s Competition Commission, which believed that the move may become a monopoly in the domestic market. Between then and now, the UK broadcasters have watched as their idea was replicated by Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, amongst others. The BBC and ITV decided to maintain some form of partnership, and in early 2017 the pair, along with AMC, launched BritBox in the US and Canada. Since then, the BBC says the service now has more than half a million subscribers, each paying $6.99 a month.
If BritBox is something that goes ahead, it’s unclear what will happen with co-production deals that the BBC or ITV might already have with services like Netflix. Stay tuned for more on this. It will certainly be interesting to learn if Britain ends up adopting a service that is essentially their own.