Following the confirmation in late February 2019 that they were in the concluding phase of talks to establish a strategic partnership, ITV and the BBC have now signed an agreement to launch BritBox in the UK in the fourth quarter of this year, describing it as “a bold, new step” as they seek to work together to offer something fresh and distinctive to the public.
“The agreement to launch BritBox is a milestone moment,” declared Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV. “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.”
“ITV and BBC have made, and continue to make, the programmes that both reflect and shape British culture and creativity. We now look forward to working together to launch the largest collection of British boxsets ever – bringing the very best in past, present and future British programming and award-winning content to viewers all in one place. We are already working together on BritBox in the US and Canada and this is proving to be very successful, exceeding its targets.”
“We are committed to making BritBox UK a great success. Discussions continue with other content and distribution partners and we are looking forward to making further announcements in the coming months,” she advised.
“We have a world beating TV industry with outstanding content,” aded BBC Director General, Tony Hall. “The BBC and ITV are at the centre of that. Together, we have been responsible for delivering the majority of ‘must see’ moments on British TV over the last decade. That ‘must see’ content will now be on BritBox.”
“But this service isn’t just about the past. I am really excited about the new shows it will commission. 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.”
BritBox will tap into the demand for a new British streaming service and the innovative new service will have thousands of hours of the nation’s favourite content from ITV and the BBC (as well as from other British broadcasters and production companies) across a variety of genres, including critically acclaimed drama, crime thrillers, classic comedy and powerful documentaries alongside reality hits and entertainment.
ITV and the BBC will open up their archive of owned content to BritBox viewers. BritBox will be a multi-genre service, with a strong focus on multi series drama boxsets, and from launch thousands of hours of much-loved British television will be available. BritBox will curate this unique store of award-winning television to enable viewers to reconnect with favourite shows and to discover classic programmes they missed first time.
Both ITV and the BBC will also provide a new and regular flow of fresh programmes as soon as they come out of their broadcast and catch-up windows. This will provide viewers with hundreds of hours of new ITV and BBC content every year. Many of these shows will be exclusive to UK viewers through BritBox and the flow of programmes will ensure that the content on BritBox is refreshed every week.
BritBox is also commissioning original content from British production companies specifically created for BritBox. The first new show is expected to be commissioned soon and will be available to BritBox viewers from 2020.
Governance and equity structure
BritBox will be an ITV-controlled venture, but as a founding partner, the BBC will contribute to the development of the core purposes and strategic direction of the venture. ITV initially holds 90 per cent and the BBC holds 10 per cent of the equity. The BBC has an option to acquire additional shares over time up to 25 per cent in total and ITV will have the ability to bring additional investors on board. ITV will be able to appoint a majority of the BritBox board while the BBC’s equity stake provides it with board representation from the outset.
BritBox will have its own dedicated management team led by Reemah Sakaan, Group Director ITV SVOD, responsible for making editorial decisions about the service content while also ensuring alignment with ITV’s and the BBC’s branding and editorial policies. Reemah reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s Director of Television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.
BritBox will pay market rate fees for all content provided by ITV, BBC and other rights owners.
Promotion and marketing
Both ITV and the BBC will support the launch of BritBox with a high-profile marketing and promotional campaign and will also look at how best to connect viewers between BritBox, ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer as they search for the content they wish to view.
With ITV’s and BBC’s commitment to BritBox they will be building a distinctive library of content, as existing licence agreements with other players expire.
Confirmation of the partnership coincides with the publication by brodcast regulator Ofcom of its assessment of the relationship between BritBox and the BBC’s Public Service activities.
Ofcom is required to make this assessment under the Charter and Agreement. It provisionally found that:
Accordingly, Ofcom has provisionally concluded that the BBC’s involvement in the BritBox service is not a material change to its commercial activities, and no further assessment is required ahead of its launch.
It will publish a final decision by early September, taking account of any further industry feedback and evidence.
Paolo Pescatore, TMT analyst at PP Foresight, suggested the “long overdue move” was too little too late.
“Netflix has a huge head start over this and forthcoming new services from the likes of Apple, Disney and others. However, pricing is punchy and the content offering looks attractive. It represents a great channel for British produced content.”
According to Pescatore, key to its success will be distribution and partnerships with cable, pay-TV and telco providers.”
“It’s great to see the BBC and ITV put more flesh on the bones of BritBox,” commented Steve Miller-Jones, VP of product strategy, Limelight Networks. “While their back catalogue is key, there is no surprise that they are talking about original content unique to BritBox as this is a prerequisite for success in streaming services today. Yet, the service will need to come to market with more than just great shows. High quality, consistent delivery across all devices is key to victory in the upcoming streaming wars for subscribers.”