Britbox: BBC and ITV set out plans for new streaming service

Gavin & Stacey Image copyright BBC/Baby Cow
Image caption Past series of Gavin & Stacey will be available on the service

Shows like Love Island, Gavin & Stacey, Gentleman Jack and Broadchurch will be on BBC and ITV’s streaming service Britbox when it launches this year.

The broadcasters are joining forces to set up the subscription service in the UK as a rival to the likes of Netflix.

It will cost £5.99 per month in HD, launching between October and the end of December.

New programmes will also be made specially for Britbox, with the first arriving next year.

Other existing series to be made available will include Victoria, Happy Valley, Les Miserables, The Office and Benidorm.

How will Britbox work?

The monthly fee will cover multiple screens and devices, “which is less than other streaming services”, a statement said.

ITV and BBC programmes will move on to Britbox after they have been broadcast on TV and fallen off the broadcasters’ own (free) catch-up services – BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. The BBC is soon expected to get permission from regulator Ofcom to keep shows on iPlayer for a year as standard.

As well as recent shows, it will also be the home of thousands of hours of classic British comedies, dramas and documentaries.

BBC director general Tony Hall said the new shows that will be made specifically for Britbox would be “future classics”.

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

Image copyright ITV/Shutterstock
Image caption Broadchurch will be one of the shows on offer

Why are the BBC and ITV doing this?

Normally rivals, the two broadcasters want to get a foothold in a fiercely competitive commercial streaming world against the likes of Netflix, Amazon and NowTV, while Disney+ and AppleTV+ are launching soon.

The BBC and ITV tried to launch something similar a decade ago, but were blocked by regulators. Now they are trying to catch up with their heavyweight competitors. Netflix has more than 150 million subscribers worldwide and reportedly spent $12bn (£9.5bn) on programmes last year.

Netflix saw its share price plummet this week though, after adding fewer paid subscribers than expected in the last three months, with price rises blamed.

The BBC and ITV launched Britbox in North America in 2017, showing programmes like Midsomer Murders, Poirot and Only Fools and Horses. It now has 650,000 subscribers, which ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall said was “exceeding its targets”.

Image caption The BBC will own 10% of Britbox at launch, with ITV controlling 90%

The bottom line is that Britbox is another way to make money from the broadcasters’ back catalogues. McCall said the agreement to launch BritBox in the UK was “a milestone moment”.

She said: “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.”

Friday’s announcement said “viewers will want to subscribe to BritBox because it is uniquely British”, and that there is “growing consumer demand in the UK for streaming services”.

ITV will own 90% of the service and the BBC’s initial 10% stake could rise to 25% in the future.

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