BritBox

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BritBox
Logo of BritBox, with tagline.svg
Type of businessJoint venture
Type of site
Available inEnglish
No. of locations4
Area served
OwnerITV plc
BBC (UK only)
BBC Studios (internationally)
AMC Networks (US only)
Founder(s)
Key people
  • Reemah Sakaan
    (CEO for BritBox International)
  • Emily Powers
    (EVP & Head for BritBox North America)
  • Moira Horgan
    (Country Manager for BritBox Australia)
IndustryEntertainment, Internet
Products
  • Streaming media
  • Video on demand
Services
  • Film production
  • Film distribution
  • Television production
  • Television distribution
ParentBritBox International:

BritBox UK:
Divisions
  • BritBox UK
  • BritBox International
    • BritBox Global
    • BritBox North America
      • BritBox US
        BritBox Canada
    • BritBox Australia
URLwww.britbox.com (US & Canada)
www.britbox.co.uk (UK)
RegistrationRequired
Users
2,000,000 total subscribers

1,500,000 subscribers
(US & Canada, October 2020)[1]
500,000 subscribers
(UK, March 2021)[2]

Launched
  • 7 March 2017; 4 years ago (2017-03-07) (United States)
  • 14 February 2018; 3 years ago (2018-02-14) (Canada)
  • 7 November 2019; 20 months ago (2019-11-07) (United Kingdom)
  • 23 November 2020; 8 months ago (2020-11-23) (Australia)
  • 6 August 2021; 7 days' time (2021-08-06) (South Africa)
Current statusActive

BritBox (stylised britbox) is an online digital video subscription service, operating as a joint venture of the BBC[note 1] and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Australia, with an upcoming launch in South Africa.[3][4][5][6][7] It is focused on British television series and films, mainly featuring current and past series and films supplied from the main UK public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5), in addition to original programming. BritBox is said to feature the biggest collection of British box sets available in one place, with additional original programming available from 2020. BritBox's focus on British content has led to the service being described as a 'niche streaming service' in the US.[8]

BritBox's launch in the United States was announced in December 2016, with it launching on 7 March 2017.[9] It launched in Canada on 14 February 2018[10][11] and proposals for a UK launch were finalised on 27 February 2019, with the service launching in the United Kingdom on 7 November 2019.[12] A launch in Australia was announced on 5 March 2020, with the service launching on 23 November 2020.[13] A South African launch was announced on 16 February 2021, with the launch date set for 6 August 2021.[7][14] The service in the UK and the international services are operated differently, and host differing content, including BritBox UK's exclusive original content. There are content restrictions between each platform, leading some content to be available on one platform and unavailable on another.

BritBox provides new episodes to British soaps and dramas such as EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks, within hours of their UK broadcast via BritBox's 'Now' feature to US and Canadian users, but also includes extensive archives of older programming, such as the popular Doctor Who classic series on the service. It reported a subscriber base of 250,000 within a year since launching in the US.[15] In 2019, 650,000 subscribers were reported from the North American platform.[16] In early 2020, the number of US and Canadian subscribers surpassed 1 million users,[17] to around 1.2 million by August, and 1.5 million by October,[1] following strong growth in the North American service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18][19] On 9 March 2021, it was reported that the UK service had surpassed 500,000 subscribers, meeting BritBox's UK target.[2] Will Harrison, BritBox UK's managing director told members of the UK Broadcasting Press Guild that BritBox was "very happy" at how the service had performed since its November 2019 launch.[20]

History[edit]

Failed "Project Kangaroo"[edit]

Though not officially described as its successor, BritBox has been likened to an earlier attempt by UK public service broadcasters (PSBs) (BBC Worldwide, ITV plc and Channel 4) to create an online video-on-demand download service, codenamed "Project Kangaroo" in November 2007. This followed the launches of the broadcasters' own video-on-demand services.

On Wednesday, 4 February 2009, Project Kangaroo was blocked by the then Competition Commission.[21]

The commission stated that the case surrounding Kangaroo was about the control of valuable UK-originated TV content. "BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 together control the vast majority of this material, which puts them in a very strong position as wholesalers of TV content to restrict competition from other current and future providers of video-on-demand services to UK viewers," said Peter Freeman, the chairman of the Competition Commission, in its final report on Project Kangaroo. "We thought viewers would benefit from better video-on-demand [VoD] services if the parties – possibly in conjunction with other new and/or already established providers of VoD – competed with each other."

A Channel 4 spokesperson said at the time, "This is a disproportionate remedy and a missed opportunity in the further development of British broadcasting."

After the planned Project Kangaroo was blocked, the system's assets were sold to transmitter firm Arqiva and this led to the development of the service SeeSaw, which operated from February 2010 to October 2011, with content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, some of which (such as Doctor Who) now appears on BritBox.

Rise of streaming[edit]

Since the rise of Netflix and subsequent other Subscription Video on Demand services (SVODs), European PSBs and media companies, in particular, have started to find ways to compete with the increasing dominance of American SVODs, and many old rivalries have been put aside in preference of collaboration by creating jointly-controlled SVODs, such as BritBox, Salto [fr] (backed by French networks TF1 Group, France Télévisions and M6), and Germany-based Joyn [de] (a joint venture between ProSiebenSat.1 Media and Discovery, Inc.).[22] Such actions are motivated by reports showing younger generations shunning terrestrial TV, and with fears that PSBs[23] have no choice but to adapt in the rapidly changing television market.

Establishment of joint venture[edit]

Following increased competition from the streaming giants on the public service broadcasters, the BBC (through BBC Worldwide) and ITV announced plans to create a Netflix-style TV service. Talks between the BBC and ITV to launch this streaming service took place in March 2016, with NBCUniversal also initially in the talks.[24]

BritBox's launch in the United States was officially announced in December 2016, with it launching on 7 March 2017. The BBC and ITV announced several shows they would be running on Britbox including New Blood, Tutankhamun, The Moonstone, In The Dark, Cold Feet and crime series Silent Witness on US launch.[25] On 14 February 2018, BritBox launched in Canada.[26]

In February 2019, it was announced that BritBox would be launched in the UK later in the year as a rival to Netflix.[27] Journalist Mark Lawson likened the proposed project to BBC Worldwide's previous failed platform, Project Kangaroo, which was expected to launch in 2008, and described it as "bizarre" and "hugely risky".[28] In March 2019, Channel 4 confirmed interest in collaborating with the BBC and ITV.[29] McMafia, Last Tango in Halifax, Les Misérables and the sitcom Gavin & Stacey were some of the programmes available on the UK version, at launch.[29]

In July 2019, the BBC and ITV announced they had signed an agreement to launch BritBox in the UK in the last quarter of 2019.[30]

On 20 September 2019, ITV announced they had reached a deal with ViacomCBS for Channel 5 and Comedy Central UK content.[31] This was followed by an announcement on 27 September that Samsung TVs, Freeview Play and YouView would be the first distribution platforms.[32]

In October 2019, BritBox launched its "testing phase" (beta) in the United Kingdom, to which users could sign up for a free trial to have a "snapshot of what will be there at launch".[33]

On 15 October 2019, BBC Studios global distribution president, Paul Dempsey, admitted there were more markets where the UK-skewing service could work. Alongside the launch of BritBox in Australia, taking the service into its fourth market, BBC Studios and ITV have announced that they will continue to evaluate new opportunities for the roll-out of BritBox in additional territories around the world.

One day before UK launch, on 6 November 2019, the Guardian reported that Channel 4 was to join BritBox after it signed a 3-year deal to provide 1000+ hours of content from All 4 "with a range of comedy, drama and non-scripted programmes from across the service, including new series, and for the first time to any streamer, an exclusive Film4 curated service featuring iconic British films".[34][35] This means for the first time, all the UK's traditional channels have managed to successfully bring together programmes on a single streaming service. Channel 4 content would be available on BritBox from April 2020 and Film4 content from September 2020, with recently aired content being only available on BritBox 31 days after the airing of the last episode on Channel 4.[35] Channel 4 currently has not taken an equity stake in BritBox.

In March 2020, ITV described BritBox as "on plan" following its UK launch last November. The majority-owner in the BBC-ITV streaming venture reported a "strong growth" in subscribers, but didn't report any specific numbers.[36]

On 5 March 2020, BBC and ITV announced that BritBox is to launch in Australia, the service would bring Australians "an unrivalled collection of great British TV shows, and will build on the successful launch and operation of the service in both North America (the USA and Canada) and most recently in the UK". British content from across the past decades, including classic and contemporary box sets from the UK, would be directly available to Australian viewers via a wide range of mobile and connected home devices. BritBox Australia will be run as a 50/50 joint venture partnership between ITV and BBC Studios, and ITV says, the service will draw on the experience of the teams and technology used to successfully launch BritBox in North America and the UK while also recruiting a local team to conduct Australian operations.[4]

On 27 July 2020, BritBox announced plans to expand the service to 25 more countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa. It was not specified which countries BritBox is targeting or what timeframe the rollout is expected to be completed.[37][38] Following the announcement, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall said: “This international expansion plan will firmly establish BritBox as a global premium brand in a rapidly growing sector” and BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie added: “BritBox has very quickly found a place in viewers’ hearts and we know there is further appetite amongst international audiences who love great British content.”

On 21 August 2020, ITV and BBC Studios announced they're set to invest more than A$35 million (€21.2m) into BritBox Australia, which is scheduled to launch in late 2020. BBC Studios and ITV will both invest A$17.7m ($12.7m) into the new SVoD platform over the next three years. ITV has since confirmed to the London Stock Exchange that BritBox Australia is on track to launch on time despite the COVID-19 pandemic, following the confirmation of investment from the UK broadcaster's subsidiary "ITV SVOD Australia Pty Ltd" into the BritBox Australia Partnership (branded as "BritBox Australia") over a period of three years.[39][40]

In late September 2020, ITV group director, SVOD, Reemah Sakaan addressed the plans to ramp up the service’s international presence, she said that BritBox would primarily target markets that consume large amounts of English-language entertainment including large ones such as India, as well as "passion"-driven markets such as the Nordic countries. She said that the Joint venture would look at different structures depending on the specific opportunity, with some potentially taking a B2B2C (Business-to-Business-to-Consumer) form rather than a direct D2C (Direct to Consumer) approach, i.e. BritBox partnering with a local distributor or service provider. She added that BritBox is "focused on moving as fast as we can" into international markets.[41]

The service launched in Australia on 23 November 2020, which ITV states is recognised globally as "Doctor Who Day".[6]

On 16 February 2021, BBC Studios and ITV announced that BritBox is to launch in South Africa in the second half of 2021. Like most services outside the United Kingdom, the South African service will be a 50/50 joint venture between BBC Studios and ITV.[7][42]

On 8 March 2021, it was announced that BritBox UK would join Amazon Video Channels in spring 2021 for UK Amazon Prime subscribers,[43] and on 9 March it was announced that the UK service had surpassed 500,000 subscribers.[2]

The launch date for the South African platform was announced on 27 July 2021, with the launch date set for 6 August 2021.[44][45][14]

Growth and profitability[edit]

On 5 December 2019, ITV's subscription video on demand Group Director Reemah Sakaan said in an interview that the service in North America had reached profitability;[46] this was followed in 2020 by the news that the service there had surpassed 1 million users.[17] A study commissioned by the UK media regulator Ofcom previously predicted that BritBox could have 2 million UK subscribers by the year 2023, alongside newly launched US-based SVODs Disney+ and Apple TV+. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and frequent national and local lockdowns, in August it was reported BritBox had surpassed 1.2 million subscribers in North America. BBC Studios said the streaming service "went from strength to strength, reaching 1.2 million subscribers in North America after year-end to become the fastest-growing targeted SVOD service."[18][19]

On 6 October 2020, it was announced that Soumya Sriraman would depart as BritBox US and Canada's president, following the announcement that BritBox had reached 1.5 million subscribers in the US and Canada. The North American service was reported to exceeded all company targets and, according to Parks Associates OTT tracker, remains the fastest-growing targeted standalone SVOD service to have launched within the last three years.[47][1] On 23 October, it was announced Emily Powers would lead the North American service when Soumya Sriraman departs at the end of October.[48][49]

On 24 February 2021, Reemah Sakaan was announced to become the international CEO of BritBox. Her term at BritBox International will start in April 2021 and she would be tasked with expanding BritBox's operations outside the United Kingdom. She will oversee a team of around 100 content, customer management and business executives, including, Emily Powers, the EVP and head of BritBox North America, and Moira Hogan, country manager for BritBox Australia.[50][51][52]

In July 2021, Diederick Santer was appointed international chief creative officer of BritBox. Speaking about the appointment, Santer said he was "hugely excited" to be joining BritBox.[53]

Ownership and areas served[edit]

BritBox is a joint venture between ITV plc and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (and its commercial arm BBC Studios on services outside the UK), this is advertised with the tagline "by BBC & ITV" emphasising the ownership of the service. Ownership of the joint venture differs between the countries it operates in, largely due to restrictions on BBC (TV Licence) funding between domestic and international services.

The service in the United States and Canada is owned by BritBox LLC.[3] A joint venture of BBC Studios and ITV plc, both owning a 50% equal majority share each.[54] AMC Networks, the BBC's joint partner on the US cable channel BBC America, is an investor and has a non-voting minority stake in the service. Concerns have risen since they purchased a vested stake in RLJ Entertainment (who owns a rival British TV service Acorn TV) and their own Shudder SVOD service, as well as its stake in Philo.

The service in the United Kingdom is owned by BritBox SVOD Ltd.[5] ITV plc is the controller,[55] owning 90% of the joint venture, with the BBC holding the remaining 10%, with the option of increasing their share to 25%.[56][57] Channel 4 and Channel 5 currently have no equity share in the platform.

The service in Australia is operated by the BritBox Australia Partnership, equally owned (50%) by both BBC Studios and ITV plc. It launched on 23 November 2020.[58]

The upcoming service in South Africa would be equally owned by BBC Studios and ITV plc at 50% shares each.[7]

Map showing the countries where BritBox is currently present, countries which have confirmed upcoming launches of the service, and rumoured or anticipated regions where BritBox may launch. (February 2021)
  Service available
  Upcoming launch
  Potential countries/regions
BritBox Ownership by Country
Country Launch Date Entity BBC Share ITV Share Minority Share Notes
 BritBox US 7 March 2017 BritBox LLC BBC Studios 50% ITV plc 50% AMC Networks -
 BritBox Canada 14 February 2018 BritBox LLC BBC Studios 50% ITV plc 50% - -
 BritBox UK 7 November 2019 BritBox SVOD Ltd BBC 10% ITV plc 90% - BBC has the option to increase share to 25%.
 BritBox Australia 23 November 2020 The BritBox Australia Partnership BBC Studios 50% ITV plc 50% - -
 BritBox South Africa 6 August 2021 TBC BBC Studios 50% ITV plc 50%

Content[edit]

Original programmes[edit]

In September 2017, BritBox released a reconstruction of the Doctor Who story The Wheel in Space using the surviving episodes and reconstruction using Tele-snaps.[59] In July 2018, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco made its debut, the first original drama series in which BritBox held a direct production role.[60]

More original content is set to be commissioned and produced for 2020, following the platform's UK launch, with the BBC Media Centre stating "The first new show is expected to be commissioned soon and will be available to BritBox viewers from 2020".[61] The goal is to offer exclusive content only available on BritBox, rather than BBC and ITV's UK VOD services BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. The annual budget for original programmes will be in the tens of millions of pounds according to BBC News.[62]

ITV has pledged to invest up to £65m in the joint venture over the next two years, and the BBC has said their pledge would be in the "tens of millions".[63]

It was confirmed in March 2020 that the first original commission to be shown on Britbox UK would be a revival of the satirical puppet show Spitting Image.[64] The series, featuring 100 new puppets, debuted on 3 October 2020.[65]

In the table below, "exclusive" refers to a programme where it is only available on, whilst "debut" refers to the platform a programme is first available on.

Drama[edit]

Title Genre Premiere Platform(s) Series/episodes Status Notes
The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco Crime mystery 25 July 2018  US debut 1 series, 8 episodes Renewed, co-production between ITV and BritBox US BritBox US's first original[66][67]
The Pembrokeshire Murders Crime drama, Thriller TBA TBA 1 series, 3 episodes Co-production between ITV and BritBox US [68]
Honour Crime drama 29 October 2020  UK 1 series, 2 episodes Co-production between ITV and BritBox US [69][70]
The Mallorca Files Police procedural drama Co-production between ITV and BritBox US and Canada
There She Goes Comedy-drama
The Bay Crime drama
A Spy Among Friends Cold War, Espionage thriller Autumn 2021  UK debut 1 series, 6 episodes Negotiations, co-production between ITV Studios and Sony Pictures Television, shared with Spectrum BritBox's first drama commission in the UK[71]
The Beast Must Die Revenge thriller 27 May 2021[72]  UK debut 1 series, 5 episodes In-production,[73] co-production between New Regency Television and Scott Free Films [74] First drama to be shot for BritBox UK.
Crime Crime thriller Autumn/Winter 2021  UK exclusive 1 series, 6 episodes In production, production from Buccaneer Media, shared rights with Cineflix rights [75]
Magpie Murders Crime drama, murder mystery 2022  UK exclusive Commissioned, production from Eleventh Hour Films, shared with PBS Masterpiece [76][77]
Sanditon Historical drama TBA
(Series 1, 2019 on ITV)
 UK exclusive Series 2-, 2 series

(Series 1 for ITV)

Renewed, production from Red Planet Pictures, shared with PBS Masterpiece with BritBox UK as the UK exclusive streamer. Series 1, as 8 episodes, was initially broadcast on ITV, later series to be broadcast on BritBox UK first.[78]
Marlow Crime thriller 2022  UK exclusive 1 series, 8 episodes Commissioned, production from Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content. [79]
Murder in Provence Crime drama 2022 All platforms 1 series, 3 episodes Commissioned, production from Monumental Television (ITV Studios) BritBox's first drama commission in the UK and the US.[80] The drama would be BritBox's first original that is avaliable to on all of its platforms (a pan-territory original).[81]
Hotel Portofino Historical drama TBA TBA TBA Commissioned, co-production between ITV and BetaFilm Group [82]

Comedy[edit]

Title Genre Premiere Platform(s) Series/episodes Status Notes
Spitting Image Adult puppeteering, Political satire,
Black comedy
3 October 2020  UK debut Series 19-, 2 series Renewed, production from Avalon Television BritBox UK's "first original commission"[83][84]

Factual[edit]

Title Genre Premiere Platforms(s) Series/episodes Status Notes
Secrets of the Krays Crime documentary 12 May 2021  UK exclusive 1 series, 3 episodes Commissioned, production from ITN Productions BritBox's first original factual commission.[85][86]

Film and television deals[edit]

In addition to containing the catalogues of BBC and ITV television, BritBox includes content from Channel 4 (including Film4), and ViacomCBS through the UK channels Channel 5 and Comedy Central.

Other potential networks to offer content or ownership of BritBox include: NBCUniversal (owned by Comcast) and BT. Such collaboration would greatly increase BritBox's catalogue and financial resources when competing with other streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. BT and NBCUniversal were reportedly in early talks with BritBox, but the progress of the talks have yet to be stated, with NBCUniversal investing in their streaming service, Peacock in the US from 2020[87] and its parent Comcast owning Sky's UK streaming service Now TV, making full collaboration with NBCUniversal unlikely. BT has since signed a partnership with BritBox in which the service will complement its content.

In the early days of BritBox, Channel 4 was reportedly in talks with BritBox for a long period, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall confirmed to RadioTimes.com that talks are "continuing" with Channel 4 and said that they will "welcome Channel 4 to BritBox".[88] On 6 November, the Guardian reported that Channel 4 is to join BritBox, with its content available on the service from April 2020.[34]

However, Channel 4, a publisher-broadcaster,[89] must commission UK content from independent production companies and currently works with around 300 companies across the UK every year.[35] As such, Channel 4 potentially lacks the streaming rights to many of the shows it broadcasts. Many independent broadcasters potentially waive these rights to strike other deals with larger SVODs (for outside UK rights) while retaining control over their intellectual property. This would therefore potentially cause the UK platform to have differing content from the international platforms.

Content co-produced between British broadcasters and larger SVODs like Netflix and Prime Video are not likely to be available on all or most BritBox platforms.[90] This includes shows like the ITV Studios produced, BBC series Bodyguard, which a BritBox spokesperson said "Can't come back home", adding that "going forward, [BritBox] won't licence things to Netflix and Amazon in the first place because we now have a home, a streaming service in the UK".[91]

With programming rights becoming an important issue for BritBox, the BBC and ITV have worked to keep programming rights by making deals, purchasing production companies (as with ITV Studios) or producing content for each other.[92]

In September 2020, BritBox UK's managing director, Will Harrison said in terms of distribution, BritBox UK's availability had expanded to some 21 million devices – equating to some 13 million homes in the UK – meaning that BritBox didn't need a pay-TV distribution partner, although Harrison admitted that BritBox would like to continue those relationships, given the benefits of integration and marketing with their partners, "We continue to have those conversations.", meaning BritBox's focus is primarily on developing direct relationships and device rollouts rather than developing relationships with platforms. He advised that in early October 2020, BT was launching an offer for its broadband customers to get six months BritBox for free on its YouView box. "That's eight million BT broadband homes."[20]

Harrison also added that the expansion of catch-up windows for iPlayer and ITV Hub meant that BritBox was also looking at non-exclusive content. Although he clarified that two-thirds of content on BritBox should remain fully exclusive "so we can live with a bit of overlap". He said that BritBox could also act as a source of complete box sets alongside the catch-up services.[93]

Film and television deals for BritBox
Broadcaster Distributor Content provided Date joined Content added Contract Platforms Notes Exceptions
BBC BBC (UK only) Archive, original programming 7 November 2019 On UK launch Owner UK Content shared* with BBC iPlayer up to 12 months after airing

Collaborations (with HBO, Prime etc.) are likely not included

Co-produced content with other SVODs.

Leased content to other networks

BBC Studios (internationally) 7 March 2017 On US launch US

Canada

Australia

Collaborations (with HBO, Prime etc.) are likely not included
ITV plc ITV Studios Archive, original programming 7 March 2017 On launch Owner All Content shared* with ITV Hub up to 30 days after airing (UK)

Collaborations are likely not included

Channel Four Television Corporation Channel Four Television Corporation Original programming 6 November 2019 Apr 2020–23 3 years UK Content shared* with All 4 up to 31 days after airing

British TV box sets (otherwise available on All 4) and British films (from Film4) only.

Collaborations are likely not included

A collection of twenty-five titles, primarily from the Film4 library, including Trainspotting, Beast, Charlotte Gray and The Hatton Garden Job which will be available on BritBox UK from 17 September. A further twenty-five titles will be added before the end of 2020.[94]

Film4 Original films Sep 2020–23
ViacomCBS

(ViacomCBS Networks UK & Australia)

Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd Original programming 20 September 2019 Nov 2019 (UK launch) TBC Channel 5 Content shared* with My5 up to 30 days after airing.
Comedy Central UK Original British programming British comedies from Comedy Central only. Non-British Content
BT (Content) Partnership 7 November 2019 No content

(promotional)

BritBox will become available to the millions of customers who subscribe to its pay-TV service, which broadcasts programming such as Champions League football[95]
Various British Channels (BBC, ITV, C4 etc.) Endemol Shine International Distribution rights to limited programmes 16 October 2019 US Canada [96]
Kew Media Distribution 16 October 2019 [96]
DRG 21 January 2020 Jan 2020 Package of British drama and comedy titles.[97]
UK Performing Arts Royal Shakespeare Company Part of a wide selection of titles added to BritBox's popular and growing ‘Centre Stage’ collection, which features music concerts, documentaries and comedy and celebrates outstanding British entertainment and performers.[98]
The Donmar Warehouse
Other comedies, tragedies, ballets and operas from the UK's pre-eminent performers
Anderson Entertainment "Old School” collection of cult kids’ TV shows [99]

* after airing, not all content is expected to be on BritBox during the stated time frame.

Other partners
Collaborator Service provided Date announced Available in Notes
BT (Consumer) Products 7 November 2019 UK "[BT] to create a range of products and offers that feature access to BritBox for millions of customers across its brands and services", more information in coming months.

In October 2020, BT extended their offer of 6 Months Free BritBox for BT Broadband and TV Customers.[100][101][102]

EE Exclusive mobile partner 7 November 2019 UK A free extended 6-month subscription is available to all EE pay monthly mobile and tablet customers for an extended free trial period.[103][104]

Criticism[edit]

Excluded content[edit]

This may not apply to all platforms.

A big part of the BritBox catalogue is the extensive archives of the public service broadcasters, BritBox faces the challenge of hosting content that contains outdated stereotypes and opinions. In response to this, BritBox has announced that it would not include classic homegrown series that are deemed to be inappropriate for modern audiences.

BritBox bosses have said a range of older shows, such as the BBC's Till Death Us Do Part and It Ain't Half Hot Mum, as well as ITV's Love Thy Neighbour, will not appear on the service because of content deemed racist or otherwise unacceptable.[105] Reemah Sakaan, the senior ITV executive responsible for launching the subscription video-on-demand service, said "We also recomply everything that goes on to BritBox [with modern TV viewing standards]. There's also the ability to create bespoke warnings around key programming."

Sakaan confirmed that Till Death Us Do Part, first aired on BBC1 in 1965, which features the bigoted character Alf Garnett, and ITV's 1970s series Love Thy Neighbour, a sitcom about a West Indian couple who move next door to a White British couple, will not appear on the service. Some individual episodes of the BBC's Only Fools and Horses and Doctor Who serial from the original run (The Talons of Weng-Chiang, 1977) are also deemed problematic. In the Doctor Who serial, people of Chinese extraction are termed "inscrutable Chinks" and an English actor performs in "yellowface". Some Fawlty Towers episodes will run with warnings of offensive language. The Doctor Who serial from 1977 has a warning attached indicating "Contains stereotypes that some may find offensive."[105][106]

In June, following the widespread George Floyd protests, shows like Little Britain were removed from BritBox, along with others, due to the use of Blackface in the programme.[107]

Non-exclusive deals[edit]

The sale of rights to BBC and Channel 5 content has caused some reporters to be wary of BritBox's viability as a platform for new content, due to deals with larger SVODs to exclusively stream newer BBC content and non-exclusive deals with Sky and Now TV to access Channel 5 box sets.[108] However, many BBC Studios' deals have given licences to some of its content to many other SVODs on a non-exclusive basis. With newer or co-produced series more likely to be exclusive to certain SVODs, shown with the new 2020 original commissions being BritBox UK exclusive. Whereas Sky already has existing deals with not only Channel 5, but Channel 4 and the BBC to have certain box sets on their Sky and Now TV platforms in the UK.[109]

All current and future series of the 2005 revival of Doctor Who will be exclusive to stream on HBO Max in the US, following a deal between the two, on 1 August 2019.[108] Other content from BBC Studios such as The Honourable Woman, Luther, Top Gear, and the British version of The Office would be available on HBO Max on a non-exclusive basis, meaning they would potentially be also available on BritBox.[110]

On 1 April 2019, a 10-year content partnership was agreed between BBC Studios and Discovery, which will see Discovery become the exclusive global home of the BBC's landmark natural history programmes including the Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life franchises for SVOD. The Dynasties series, hosted by Sir David Attenborough, is included in the deal, as are future BBC-commissioned landmark series. This deal applies Worldwide except the UK, Ireland and Greater China, meaning such series may be unavailable on BritBox platforms outside the United Kingdom. Upcoming co-produced content between Discovery and BBC Studios would be exclusive to Discovery's upcoming streaming platform outside the UK.[111][112]

The Discovery deal includes around 500 hours of non-exclusive content, which will still be available on other streaming services. A BBC Studios spokesperson told TBI that the relationship with Discovery is "very significant and important but it is not 100% exclusive on all titles in all regions and is, therefore, able to co-exist alongside regional deals of this type", following BBC Studios' deal to provide factual content to Greek telco OTE's pay-TV service Cosmote TV.[113]

Limitations[edit]

With limitations to its budget and original programming when compared to other SVODs, BritBox faces strong competition in the increasingly crowded streaming market. Critics warn that BritBox needs to greatly increase its financial firepower and original programming to compete in especially the UK market, against rivals, Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+, following reports more Brits would subscribe to Disney+ over BritBox.[114] Critics say that BritBox is no rival, and cannot rival Netflix without substantial resources. BritBox also faces direct competition with Acorn TV, an American streaming service that provides many British television programmes, among others, with the service recently launching in the UK.

Platforms[edit]

The list of available programmes differs between the Australian, Canadian, UK and US platforms.[115] For example, BritBox carries Coronation Street in the US but not in Canada, where the corresponding rights have long been held by CBC Television. Meanwhile, in the UK, TV shows, especially produced by independent production companies (like the BBC show Peaky Blinders) may appear on the UK BritBox, as the BBC or ITV have the domestic broadcasting rights, but may not be available on BritBox elsewhere, due to the independent production companies giving international rights to services like Netflix. This means that depending on whether the BBC and ITV own only domestic rights, programmes on UK BritBox may not also be available on its American and Canadian platforms.[62] Alternatively, shows like Living the Dream may not appear on the UK BritBox, as it is broadcast by Sky and available on Sky's streaming service Now TV in the UK, but currently appears on the US BritBox.[116]

BBC and ITV content currently on other streaming services are likely to be exclusive to BritBox once the other SVOD licences expire, therefore potentially leading to harmony in programming between the platforms.[63] Any original content produced for all BritBox platforms is set to be exclusively on BritBox, however, some UK commissioned content may be UK exclusive.

Whether content co-produced between British broadcasters and larger SVODs, like Netflix and Prime Video, will be on any BritBox platforms is unclear,[90] these include shows like Bodyguard in which a BritBox Spokesperson said "can't come back home", and who added that "going forward, we [BritBox] won't licence things to Netflix and Amazon in the first place because we now have a home, a streaming service in the UK",[91] they also added that in response to not licensing to other SVODs, since its focus is on UK-produced series, the platform would not compete to acquire the rights to US or international shows.[117]

Recently aired or current shows made for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 terrestrially in the United Kingdom, would appear on their VOD services, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5 and All 4 respectively before BritBox. These shows would then move to BritBox at a later date, then be exclusive to BritBox once the shows have expired on the terrestrial VOD,[92] which is 30 days for ITV Hub and My5, 31 days for All 4 and 12 months for BBC iPlayer.[118]

New content not made exclusively for BritBox, but for the BBC for example, may not be available on BritBox platforms outside the UK, due to deals struck with other SVODs such as HBO Max and Discovery.[119]

United States[edit]

BritBox's launch in the United States was announced in December 2016, it launched on 7 March 2017.[9]

Among the shows offered upon BritBox's initial launch, were the US premieres of New Blood and Tutankhamun. In addition, other episodes of new programmes available on the service include:

Title Genre Original network Available platforms Status Notes
Casualty Medical drama BBC U.S, Canada Renewed [120]
Coronation Street Soap opera ITV U.S, Canada Renewed
EastEnders Soap opera BBC U.S, Canada Renewed
Emmerdale Soap opera ITV U.S, Canada Renewed
Holby City Medical drama BBC U.S, Canada Renewed

On 1 August 2019, HBO Max announced its acquisition of library rights to several BBC Studios series, including the first 11 seasons of the 2005 Doctor Who revival, as well as future seasons 12–14. The Honourable Woman, Luther, Top Gear, and the original British series The Office are also some other shows in the acquisition. HBO Max will also stream future seasons of Doctor Who after their initial run on BBC America. Newer Doctor Who would be exclusive to HBO Max, with the other shows in the deal sold on a non-exclusive basis.[108][110]

Canada[edit]

BritBox launched in Canada on 14 February 2018,[10] on launch the service included a free 7-day trial and in which content can be streamed on the web, on an iOS app, Apple TV, Android, Samsung TVs, Chromecast and Roku. It comes with a free 7-day introductory trial and priced at CAD 8.99 per month on launch.[11] Users who signed up for the service in the U.S. will be able to access their subscription in Canada.

The catalogue of content on the Canadian platform is similar to the American platform, but minor differences do exist, for example, Coronation Street isn't on Canadian BritBox, due to CBC Television holding the Canadian broadcasting rights.

United Kingdom[edit]

BritBox launched in the UK on 7 November 2019.[62][121] Unlike other platforms, the UK platform would include content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 (which includes Film4 Productions), Channel 5 and Comedy Central UK.

BritBox UK signed a partnership deal with Channel 4 in 2019, allowing the service to host over a thousand hours of content from All 4 over the next three years. New series will continue to appear on BritBox one month after transmission of the last episode on Channel 4's channels.

Complete box-sets launching in April 2020 include:

An exclusive Film4 curated service featuring iconic British films was announced to follow the launch of Channel 4 content on BritBox later in 2020.[122] On 21 August, BritBox UK confirmed a collection of 25 titles, primarily drawn from the Film4 library, including: Trainspotting, Beast, Charlotte Gray and The Hatton Garden Job which will be available on the service from 17 September 2020. A further 25 titles will be added before the end of 2020.[94]

Australia[edit]

On 5 March 2020, the BBC and ITV announced that BritBox is to launch in Australia in late 2020.[4] The service finally launched in Australia on 23 November 2020.[123]

South Africa[edit]

On 16 February 2021, BBC Studios and ITV announced that BritBox is to launch in South Africa.[7][42] On 27 July 2021, the launch date for the platform was set for 9 August 2021, with the service priced at R99.99 per month, R999.90 per year, and a 7-day free trial.[44]

Technical requirements[edit]

BritBox is only available to residents of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.[124] Australian, Canadian, and US residents can use BritBox in Australia, Canada, and the US (with differences in show availability due to rights restrictions) but it cannot be used outside of North America and Australia (including the UK version of BritBox while in the UK).[125]

Operating systems[edit]

Operating system Version Developer Notes
Windows 7 or later Microsoft
Android 4.4 (Kitkat) or later Google
Mac OS OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later Apple
iOS 10.1 or later

Web browsers[edit]

Supported browsers Version Developer(s)
Chrome Google
Firefox Mozilla
Opera Opera Software
Opera Chromium Opera Software & Google
Edge Stable & under 2 years old (pre-chromium as of 2020) Microsoft
Edge Chromium Microsoft & Google
Safari Latest and previous stable major version Apple
Android Native Google

Compatible devices[edit]

Devices with native applications

Products Developer(s) Device type(s) Notes Platform(s) Software Date(s) added
iPhone Apple Smartphone, Mobile devices Labelled as 'iOS device' in Help & Support All Dedicated app March 2017 (US)

November 2019 (UK)

iPad Tablet computer Labelled as 'iOS device' in Help & Support and 'iOS tablet' in an ITV press release,[126] likely includes iPad, which now uses iPadOS March 2017 (US)

November 2019 (UK)

Android Devices (Google)

Android phone manufacturers

including:

Samsung

Huawei

LG

Google

Sony

among others

Touchscreen mobile devices

(Smartphones and Tablets)

March 2017 (US)

November 2019 (UK)

Apple TV Apple Set-top box microconsole (TVOS) 4th Generation or later Dedicated TV app March 2017 (US)

November 2019 (UK)

Samsung Tizen TV Samsung Smart TV (2016 onwards) A partnership has been confirmed with Samsung, which will see the BritBox app hosted on Samsung Tizen TVs* from launch onwards (UK).

"Samsung will be the first TV to launch the BritBox app and together, Samsung and BritBox have agreed to a co-marketing partnership that will see BritBox featured as a "Recommended App" on Samsung Smart TV's and joint marketing activity taking place in Q4 as the TV device market heads into its key sales season around Black Friday and Christmas."[35]

November 2019 (UK)
Panasonic Smart TV Panasonic Smart TV

"Premium range"

"Panasonic has announced support for select TVs. The BritBox app now features on all 2019 TVs apart from the GX700 models; the X700B TVs and all above models from 2018, including the FZ series; and the EX, EZ, DX and CX series TVs."[127] "Panasonic's premium range of televisions has featured the BritBox app since 10th December. "

Panasonic television models which support BritBox: GX800 and above, including GZ series, FX700B and above & FZ series, EX series & EZ series, DX series and CX series.

UK December 2019 (UK)
Vestel Smart TV Vestel Smart TV (2017 onwards) "BritBox is now also available on a range of smart TVs using the Vestel platform, which allows owners of Toshiba, JVC, HITACHI, Bush, Digihome, Finlux, Logik, Luxor, Polaroid, Techwood and more TVs to effortlessly access the service via an app."[128][129] "BritBox will be featured on model ranges from 2017 onwards and support for further Freeview Play compatible models will be added soon," added Hakan Kutlu, Vice President of Marketing, Vestel." December 2019 (UK)[130]
LG Smart TV LG Smart TV (2014 onwards) April 2020 (UK)[131]
YouView Partnership of:

BT Group

TalkTalk Group

Arqiva

BBC

ITV plc

Channel Four Television Corporation

Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd

'hybrid' set-top box Announcement on 27 September that Samsung TVs, Freeview Play and Youview would be the first distribution platforms[32] (UK).

Used by BT TV and TalkTalk TV, as well as Sony TVs and Humax PVRs. The availability date for BritBox will vary by ISP, manufacturer and model.

Following an update to YouView software, BritBox is available to BT TV subscribers.

The phased release is being rolled out for BT T2100, T2200 & T4000 devices. Found within the Players & Apps section of the device.[132]

March 2020 (UK)

May 2020 (UK) (on BT TV)

Freeview Play DTV Services Ltd,

a Joint Venture of:

Arqiva

BBC

ITV plc

Channel Four Television Corporation

Sky

Set-top box The availability date for BritBox will vary by manufacturer and model. 2020 (UK)
Freesat Joint venture of:

BBC

ITV plc

UK September 2020 (UK)[133][134]
Amazon Channels Feature of

Amazon

Prime Video

Service The ability to subscribe to Amazon Channels is exclusive to Prime members, but you'll need to pay individual subscription fees for individual channels. BritBox is an available channel for US and Canadian Prime customers.[135] Available on all Amazon Video capable devices and platforms. US via Prime Video app August 2017 (US)[136]
Canada June 2020 (Ca)[137]
The ability to subscribe to Amazon Channels is exclusive to Prime members, but you'll need to pay for an add-on subscription to BritBox through the service. BritBox is an available channel for UK Prime customers. Available on all Amazon Video capable devices and platforms from 27 April 2021.[43][138] UK April 2021 (UK)[43][138]
Roku Roku, Inc. Digital media player US March 2017 (US)
AirPlay Apple Wireless media streamer
Chromecast Google Digital media player "The BritBox Chromecast app allows subscribers to view BritBox on any television with an HDMI port by adding a £30 Chromecast device. Viewers can use their iOS or Android smartphone to browse and select from the biggest collection of British box-sets, and then enjoy watching it on the big screen using their phone as a remote control."[128] All Dedicated apps March 2017 (US)

December 2019 (UK)[130]

Amazon Fire TV Amazon "We look forward to adding even more ways to enjoy the best of British creativity in 2020, including more FreeView Playsets, YouView devices and Amazon FireTV." February 2020 (UK)[139]
Netgem.tv Netgem 'hybrid TV platform'

TV streaming service on ISPs and OTT devices

UK January 2020 (UK)[140]
Fetch TV Fetch TV Set-top box Australia November 2020 (AU)
Telstra TV Telstra

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ First launched in the US under BBC Studios. Due to UK regulations, BBC Studios operate all BritBox services outside the UK on behalf of the BBC as the BBC's commercial subsidiary.

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External links[edit]