Britbox – the £5.99 service we neither want or need is definitely coming

Today, the BBC and ITV formally signed the deal to create Britbox – a new streaming service populated with BBC and ITV shows that will cost £5.99 per month. It won’t replace iPlayer or ITV hub meaning that its appeal and reason for existence is already limited.

With iPlayer soon to be getting shows for a whole year post-broadcast, this means that Britbox will effectively be charging for things that have been shown on TV, and been available for free for 12 months. There are some rough plans to develop Britbox exclusive content with which to entice new subscribers however, they’ll be pitching themselves up against the like of Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney and countless other services that are springing up almost weekly now.

Britbox suggest their £5.99 per month charge is lower than the competition – yes, that’s true, but when they’re expecting consumers to pay that money for something they’ll have already seen or had the opportunity to see for the last twelve months, this lower cost really isn’t translating into better value for money.

Then there’s the difficult issue of licencing meaning that not every programme broadcast on BBC and ITV will be automatically coming to Britbox some point 12 months later. Many of the shows on our terrestrial channels are produced and licenced for broadcast to these channels by third parties who may have their own deals with other streaming networks; and when you consider the audience of Netflix et al it’s hard to see them justifying giving their output a smaller audience by licencing it to Britbox.

Britbox claim that their exclusive content will have a budget in the ‘tens of millions’ but how much content will have access to that kind of funding is unknown. When you consider Netflix has an annual budget of $12 BILLION for original content, it suggests Britbox may have a long way to go to become competitive.

Britbox isn’t new, it has been running in the US showing archive UK content for some time and has picked up 650,000 subscribers – where accessing UK created series is more difficult, this isn’t a bad number, it’s hard to see the UK side of the network managing to hit targets quite so easily when other factors are taken into account.

The BBC think “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” – unfortunately uniquely British is becoming less and less of a draw and while there may well be increasing demand for streaming services this is quickly being tempered by the huge number of services that are now vying for our money. With TV either available or soon to be available on Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney+, NowTV, YouView, FREE catch-up services and then Britbox we’ve gone from the point of not enough choice to too much in a very short space of time.

Britbox may have been a good idea half a decade ago, but the market has changed and consumers are already suffering from higher costs, lower incomes and an increasingly complicated market. Making it more costly and more complicated isn’t going to help.

Colin Polonowski

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

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