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BritBox: “Nowhere else will you find as much great British TV and film”

BritBox execs talk to TVBEurope about today's launch

BritBox has officially launched to subscribers today, and has confirmed deals with Channel 4, Samsung, BT and EE.

The ‘British Netflix’ has signed a partnership deal with Channel 4 for content from All 4 and Film4. All 4 will launch on the streaming service in spring 2020, with new series being available 31 days following transmission of the last episode on Channel 4. Film4 will follow later in 2020.

BT and EE will offer BritBox to customers across their range of services “in the coming months” while Samsung will be the first connected TV to launch the BritBox app.

BritBox will stream in HD on all platforms and high bitrate full HD on big screens, with adaptive bitrate to reduce buffering and improve the experience on slower broadband connections. Each account can support up to five simultaneous streams. Additional functionality including offline downloads on mobile devices will be added in 2020.

Speaking to journalists on a conference call to mark the launch, Reemah Sakaan, group director ITV SVoD, was asked what success looks like for BritBox. “It’s probably not wise to be putting out a success criteria yet,” she said. “But it’s fair to say we’ve got ambitious plans for BritBox, they’re really realistic, and we are confident about establishing a really great business. Unlike some of the other streaming ventures, we very much intend for this to be profitable.”

The back-end of BritBox has been built by OTT specialist Deltatre whose UX management platform AXIS is powering the user experience. According to Sakaan, BritBox will make sure that its users can find the content they want as easily as possible. “There’s some really cool stuff that the team has built from a technical point of view. One of the things that we really know is that quite often in streaming services, they are dominated by US shows and US talent and UK audiences can feel a bit lost. 

“With BritBox, you’re immediately in a world populated by people and places that you know, and talent is a really, really important part of that. So we put that really at the heart of our navigation. There’s a browse by actor feature, which is a really great visual way of saying, ‘Oh, you know, I love John Simm, what else is he in?’ It’s very visual pictorially led.”

BritBox obviously comes to the market with an extremely strong content offering in terms of shows that British viewers already know and love. At launch it includes full box-sets of Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, Only Fools and Horses, Gavin & Stacey and Love Island. From Boxing Day, all 627 available episodes of classic Doctor Who, originally broadcast between 1963 and 1989, will be available to stream for the first time ever.

According to Paul Moore, group communications and corporate affairs director at ITV, the content available on BritBox will be the differentiator in an increasingly crowded streaming market: “The point of BritBox is nowhere else will you find as much great British TV and film,” he said. “I think that is the differentiator, the sheer scale and quality of what’s available on BritBox eclipses the British content available on any other streamer or platform, and I think the consumer will get that.”

We start today with a really extensive catalogue,” added Sakaan. “And we’ve got a whole range of exclusive shows on BritBox today, shows that you can’t find anywhere else. We’re also premiering a new series called Lambs of God, which has never been shown in the UK. We also have premiere episodes of Midsomer Murders, which haven’t gone out on linear yet, and we’re showing them first. There’s a real selection of exclusives that you can’t get anywhere else from the service already today.”

Asked by TVBEurope if there are plans to launch original content for the platform, Sakaan said: “We will be commissioning brand new series that will only exist on BritBox. They take slightly longer to make, obviously, and so we are in the throes of developing those and they’ll be coming in 2020.”

Sakaan also confirmed to TVBEurope that ITV is in talks about launching BritBox in to other international markets. “We think BritBox is a great idea. It’s really clear what it is and there are some natural next markets that we’re having a look at, but it’s only at that stage at the moment.”

In terms of the future for BritBox, Moore said that as it’s currently at day one, they’re not willing to make any predictions just yet. “We think we can build this venture to scale. What it will look like in a year’s time, let alone five years time, I honestly wouldn’t want to predict but we will build and shape it depending on what the consumers are telling us. 

“We’ve already done amazing deals with people like EE and Samsung. Those are all the building blocks that will enable us to get to scale. But, you know, we don’t want to say today what we might look like in a year, let alone two or three years time.”