In Brief

What is Britbox - and can it rival Netflix?

Streaming platform will feature new content as well as material from BBC and ITV archives

BritBox

BBC and ITV are to team up to launch a streaming service called BritBox, featuring TV shows from their archives as well as new, exclusive content.

In a statement, the BBC said it was in the “concluding phase of talks” with its free-to-air rival to bring BritBox to the UK in the second half of 2019.

The BBC says the BritBox would offer subscribers the “biggest collection of British content available on any streaming service”, both in the form of archive content and new commissions.

BritBox is already available to viewers in the US and Canada, “but a deal to launch in their domestic market with new original programming represents a shift in ambition”, says The Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper calls BritBox “a spiritual successor to Project Kangaroo”, a planned joint streaming service by BBC, ITV and Channel 4 which was blocked by competition regulators in 2009, “leaving the door open to Netflix and Amazon, which were able to build up their businesses partly by licensing BBC and ITV archive programming”.

There is no word on how much a subscription to the new service will cost, but North American subscribers currently pay $6.99 (£5.25) per month. Recent broadcasts will still be available on free catch-up services iPlayer and ITV Hub.

Some reacted with indignation at the idea of charging UK TV viewers to stream licence payer-funded content:

However, others dismissed the objection:

Traditional TV channels are fighting to compete in a landscape in which “audiences increasingly desert established channels and expect shows to be available instantly on streaming services”, says The Guardian.

However, ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall denied that BritBox was intended to rival Netflix.

“We have never said this is the British equivalent of Netflix,” she said. “The most important thing here is that it is complementary to Netflix because it is doing different things.”

Many BBC series, including Luther, Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous, are currently available on other streaming platforms, but “British broadcasters are likely to stop licensing their archive material to services such as Netflix to try to drive subscribers to the new UK service”, says The Guardian. 

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