BritBox: UK broadcasters enter the streaming wars as new service launches

BritBox screen grab Image copyright BritBox
Image caption Downton Abbey is among the programmes available at launch

BritBox, a streaming service offering shows from ITV, the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5, has launched in the UK.

Downton Abbey, Gavin & Stacey, Wolf Hall, Love Island and Broadchurch are among the shows available.

C4 and C5 have come on board after ITV and the BBC announced BritBox as a way to get into the paid streaming market.

The service will cost £5.99 per month and will mostly feature classic series, but will also include new shows, beginning with Lambs of God.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale, stars in Lambs of God

The drama stars The Handmaid’s Tale’s Ann Dowd, The End of the World’s Jessica Barden and Essie Davis from The White Princess as nuns living on a remote island. It was originally shown on Australian TV in July.

Reemah Sakaan, ITV’s group director for streaming, said there was a “whole slate of original programmes” in development for BritBox.

While the service will be a second or third subscription for many viewers, it will be able to rival the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+, she said.

“It’s got the widest range of UK box sets of any service,” she said. “Ostensibly the other streamers are US-focused so they make dramas for the US market, whereas BritBox is the faces, people and places that you know.”

Some archive programmes that have been on services like Netflix will now move to BritBox, she said.

“For some time we’ve been bringing our shows back home and now that we’ve got a destination in BritBox, that’s something we’ll be doing more actively. We’ll still be working in partnership with Netflix and Amazon and all of the other streamers.”

Image copyright BBC/ITV
Image caption Clockwise from top left: Gavin & Stacey, Love Island, Victoria and Happy Valley are on BritBox

How does the price compare with other services?

  • BritBox – £5.99 per month for HD and multi-screen viewing
  • Netflix – £5.99 for basic package rising to £8.99 for a standard plan, including HD on two screens
  • Amazon Prime – £5.99 on up to three screens simultaneously
  • Now TV – £8.99 for entertainment pass, with optional extras – Cinema Pass (£11.99), Sports (£33.99), Kids (£3.99)
  • YouTube Premium – £11.99

Dramas on the service at launch include Cracker, Prime Suspect, Brideshead Revisited and Ashes To Ashes; while comedies include Absolutely Fabulous, Extras, Blackadder and Fawlty Towers.

More than 600 classic episodes of Doctor Who – broadcast between 1963 and 1989 – will be available to stream for the first time by Christmas. Shows and movies from Channel 4 and Film4’s back catalogue will be available in 2020, and original shows from Comedy Central UK will also feature.

However, some of ITV and the BBC’s biggest hits of recent years, such as Killing Eve and Bodyguard, will not be on it because existing streaming deals are in place.

BritBox launched in the US two years ago and has a different catalogue of content, with 650,000 subscribers.

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