BritBox Taking SVOD Platform to Australia

BritBox, the subscription streaming video service targeting older women who like British-themed content, is heading Down Under.

Launched in 2017 in the United States by BBC Studios and ITV, the service bowed operations in the United Kingdom last November. It just announced that the North American service, which includes Canada, had topped 1 million subscribers paying $6.99 monthly.

Launch date and pricing for Australia have not been disclosed.

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“There‘s a real opportunity to build on the momentum and brand that has been established in North America and to make BritBox part of BBC Studios’ future strategy in Australia,” Fiona Lang, GM for BBC Studios ANZ, said in a statement. “Complementing our existing partnerships in the region, BritBox will draw on our vast combined catalogue of acclaimed British content and will deliver it directly to Australian audiences via a proven and seamless streaming service.”

Augustus Dulgaro, EVP, Asia Pacific sales & distribution, global entertainment, ITV Studios, said the BritBox brand’s popularity underscores the demand for niche content targeting specialized audiences.

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Indeed, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and AMC Networks’ Acorn TV all deliver British-themed content, including myriad original productions. BritBox has six originals in its portfolio as well. Acorn TV, launched about the same time as Netflix, has a combined 2 million subscribers with sister property, Urban Movie Channel.

“We look forward to bringing [the service] to Australian fans in 2020,” Dulgaro said.


BritBox Tops 1 Million Subscribers

BritBox, the subscription streaming service launched in 2017 in North America by BBC Studios and ITV, March 4 announced it has reached one million subscribers — double the tally from January 2019.

Launched as competition to AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video featuring British-centric programming, BritBox ($6.99 monthly) says it targets the “underserved audience of women 45 years and older” with “unparalleled” British premieres.

“By super-serving this segment of the audience, BritBox has gained their loyalty, which is reflected by the low single-digit churn rate, an incomparable metric in today’s multi-SVOD landscape,” the service said in a statement.

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CEO Soumya Sriraman said BritBox content mix of new and classic British TV shows “is a potent concoction” of programming, which remains “unbeatable.”

BritBox’s “NOW” feature includes exclusive premiere series day-and-date with the U.K. premieres. Titles include: “Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special” with the original cast, including James Corden; “Spring Watch,” a seasonal exploration of the U.K.’s most enticing wildlife, “Prime Minister’s Questions,” a weekly series where Members of Parliament pose timely questions to Prime Minister in the House of Commons, and daytime favorite “Good Morning Britain.”

“Today is a real achievement from an ambitious SVOD service,” said Tim Davie, CEO BBC Studios. “We look forward to BritBox continuing on this trajectory.”

BritBox originals and co-productions include, “McDonald and Dodds with Mammoth Screen” starring BAFTA and SAG award winner Jason Watkins (“The Crown”), “The Pembrokeshire Murders,” starring Luke Evans (Fast and Furious), and season two of crime drama, “The Bay,” starring BAFTA nominee Morven Christie.

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“To achieve profitability in less than three years is also a fantastic achievement and is a boost to our international expansion plan,” added Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV.

The channel recently announced a new commission, “Sister Boniface,” a spinoff of “Father Brown,” created by Jude Tindall and the co-commission with BBC of a second season of the Shaun Pye helmed cathartic comedy “There She Goes,” starring David Tennant and Jessica Hynes.

BritBox classic series include “Mrs. Brown’s Boys,” “MI5,” “Death in Paradise,” “Father Brown,” “Shetland,” “Wallander,” and the established home of the largest collection of Classic “Doctor Who.”


Analyst: Netflix Needs Lower-Price Tier to Avoid Losing 4 Million Domestic Subs in 2020

For years some Wall Street analysts have suggested Netflix offer an ad-supported platform, including running spots similar to what Hulu and Disney+ do. The streaming SVOD behemoth has steadfastly refused to do so.

With the domestic SVOD market near saturation and new entrants Apple TV+ and Disney+ soon to be joined by NBCUniversal’s Peacock and HBO Max, Wall Street again suggests Netflix revisit AVOD.

“Customers are more price-sensitive than previously thought, and competitors like Disney+ are already undercutting Netflix’s prices,” Neil Macker, analyst with Morningstar, wrote in a recent report, as reported by CNBC. “This price differential will cause lower subscriber growth than we had previously expected.”

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Indeed, Netflix added 420,000 subs in the United States in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019 — down from a projected gain of 600,000 subs.

Laura Martin, analyst with Needham, contends Netflix could lose 4 million domestic subs in 2020 without a lower-priced subscription price.

“Netflix must add a second, lower-priced service to compete with Disney+, Apple+, Hulu, CBS All Access and Peacock, each of which have $5– to $7-per-month choices,” Martin said.

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Netflix’s least-expensive streaming price in the United States is $8.99, while a DVD-only rental subscription costs $7.99 ($9.99 for Blu-ray Disc).

The SVOD pioneer recently launched a $2.99 mobile-only streaming plan in India with promising results, according to chief product officer Gregory Peters, who added on the Q4 fiscal webcast that there is “a pretty good indicator that there might be other countries around the world where that kind of offering will work as well.”

Separately, Netflix reportedly is downsizing its marketing department by 15 employees following the hiring over the summer of former BBC Studios marketing executive Jackie Lee-Joe.

Media reports says Lee-Joe sought to streamline the department for operational efficiencies. Netflix, which employs more than 6,900 people worldwide, hasn’t officially commented on the report.


HBO Max Gets Streaming Rights to ‘Doctor Who’ Series in New Deal with BBC Studios

Pending streaming service HBO Max has secured the exclusive streaming rights to BBC’s longest-running global franchise, “Doctor Who.” All 11 seasons of the modern version of the British sci-fi hit drama will be available on WarnerMedia’s SVOD service at launch in spring 2020.

As part of HBO Max’s new long-term deal with BBC Studios, the streamer will also be the exclusive SVOD home for future seasons after they air on BBC America.

In addition to “Doctor Who,” HBO Max has licensed 700 episodes of iconic BBC series such as “The Office,” “Top Gear,” “Luther” and “The Honorable Woman.”

“‘Doctor Who’ is one of television’s all-time, most beloved series, on both sides of the pond, and we are happy to be the exclusive streaming stewards for this BBC gem” Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV. “Another series to further define the high-quality content experience consumers can expect from HBO Max.”

“As any ‘Doctor Who’ fan knows, the iconic TARDIS [fictional time machine] is ‘bigger on the inside’ — and it’s a good thing because the TARDIS is about to welcome a whole new slew of fans coming to the show through this deal with HBO Max,” said Nigel Gaines, interim president, BBC Studios — Americas. “HBO Max’s ambitious content line-up is the perfect complement to the ‘Doctor Who’ global franchise, in addition to some of our most award-winning and game-changing U.K. dramas and comedies.”

“‘Doctor Who’ is a program like no other — an incredibly rich world of stories, packed with adventure, regeneration, heart (two actually) and hope. Our audience is incredibly dedicated and engaged, and we can’t wait to work with HBO Max to tell our stories from across all of time and space,” said Sally de St Croix, “Doctor Who” global franchise director.

The BBC deal also includes original British television mockumentary “The Office,” created, written and directed by Golden Globe and Emmy winners Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The show follows the day-to-day lives of office employees of the fictional Wernham Hogg paper company. The deal includes two seasons and two specials.

Long running car show “Top Gear” featuring several seasons with original hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May plus the most recent casts including Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff. The deal includes multiple seasons.

British crime drama “Luther” stars Idris Elba as Detective John Luther working for the Serious Crime Unit who becomes consumed by the crimes he investigates. Created and written by Neil Cross, the series has received eleven Primetime Emmy Award nominations with Elba also receiving a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Television Award, NAACP Image Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance.  Deal includes all five seasons.

Nine-part mini-series “The Honorable Woman” centers on Nessa Stein, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who inherits her father’s arms business and finds herself in an international maelstrom as she continues to promote the reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. It was created, written and directed by Hugo Blick.

The deal also includes new titles “Pure”, “Trigonometry”, “Stath Lets Flats”, “Home” and “Ghosts” which will all be available exclusively to HBO Max upon launch of the service.

All of these shows join HBO Max’s library, which is anticipated to boast 10,000 hours of programming at launch, including key licensed third-party programming and a rich array of content that brings the HBO service together with WarnerMedia’s portfolio of powerful brands: Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Hello Sunshine, Looney Tunes and more.

In addition to HBO Max’s vast selection of beloved library titles, the service will also feature the entire HBO library of hits including fan favorites “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones,” as well as previously announced acquisitions “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Pretty Little Liars” and all 236 episodes of“Friends.”

HBO Max will also be the exclusive out-of-season streaming home to a string of new Warner Bros. produced dramas for The CW, including the highly-anticipated new DC series “Batwoman” and “Katy Keene” (a spinoff of “Riverdale”). The streamer will also be home to the critically acclaimed DC series “Doom Patrol,” with the first-season available at launch and new episodes set to debut simultaneously on DC Universe and HBO Max.

The SVOD is also developing a strong originals slate with film and television projects geared toward all audience segments in the home.

Netflix Rival BritBox Launching Q4 in the U.K.

As expected, British television rivals ITV and the BBC have signed an agreement to launch subscription streaming video service BritBox in the U.K. in the fourth quarter priced at £5.99 ($7.51) per month in HD and available across multiple screens and devices.

Originally launched in North America in 2017 featuring British-centric programming from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, BritBox ($6.99) recently surpassed 650,000 subscribers.

Independent research carried out by Differentology shows that desire for British content is high – with 44% of U.K. respondents claiming they are likely to subscribe to a new SVOD service featuring British content. About 54% of respondents with a Netflix subscription claimed they would be likely to subscribe to BritBox.

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BARB data shows that more U.K. households are taking multiple SVOD subscriptions – while the annual growth in homes without any SVOD service is 20%, growth in homes with multiple services is 34%, with 5 million homes now having more than one subscription.

BritBox U.K. will initially stream TV shows broadcast on ITV and BBC, including reality series “Love Island,” “Famalam,” “Cleaning Up” and “Gentleman Jack” (available in the U.S. on HBO), in addition to catalog shows such as “Gavin & Stacey,” “Victoria,” “Happy Valley,” “Broadchurch,” “Les Miserables,” “The Office” and “Benidorm,” which will be on the service at launch or come onto the service shortly after licenses with other SVODs end.

BritBox is also commissioning original content from British production companies specifically created for the service. The first new show is expected to available in 2020.

“The agreement to launch BritBox is a milestone moment,” Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said in a statement. “SVOD 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 U.K. public service broadcasters.”

While McCall denies BritBox is targeting Netflix, which has about 10 million subscribers in the U.K. and features original content from the BBC and ITV, among other sources, BBC Director General Tony Hall is singing a different tune.

Hall said the two media companies contribute to “a world beating TV industry.”

“Together, we have been responsible for delivering the majority of ‘must see’ moments on British TV over the last decade,” he said. “That ‘must see’ content will now be on BritBox.”

ITV initially holds 90% stake and the BBC holds 10% in the joint venture. The BBC has an option to acquire additional shares over time up to 25% 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 be 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. Sakaan reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.

Season 2 of ‘Killing Eve’ on Disc June 18

BBC Studios will release Killing Eve: Season Two on Blu-ray and DVD June 18.

Picking up where the first season left off, MI6 operative Eve (Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh) renews her search for the psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer).

Extras include featurettes about the characters of Eve, Villanelle and Carolyn; the “Killing Eve” costume designer; filming on location; bringing the script to the screen; and new characters.

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BBC Studios will also release Luther: Season 5, starring Idris Elba, on DVD July 9, and a Luther: The Complete Series on DVD July 16.

BBC Studios, Pluto TV Ink Content Deal

BBC Studios and Pluto TV April 8 signed an agreement that brings BBC’s programming to Viacom’s ad-supported streaming video service in the U.S.

Select titles from the BBC Studios library (about 1,000 episodes) will air across Pluto TV’s channel lineup and on-demand featuring acclaimed series, including “Being Erica,” “Bedlam,” “Primeval” and “Robin Hood,” among others.

The streamer also plans to launch two of its single-series “Pop-Up” channels with 200 catalog episodes of “Doctor Who” and 300 episodes of Antiques Roadshow.”

BBC Studios content will launch on Pluto TV in May 2019.

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“This new Pluto TV enterprise is appealing for us as we continue to attract new audiences … and expand on opportunities for existing fans to find their favorite shows to stream, in a unique way,” Beth Clearfield, SVP of digital strategy and franchise business management for BBC Studios Americas, said in a statement.

The new programming and channel collaboration with BBC Studios will join Pluto TV’s 100+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from nearly 150 major studios, networks, publishers and digital first outfits. 

“Pluto TV is elated to be able to expand our range of programming by adding such an esteemed and regarded brand as the BBC,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto. “The BBC has long been a key international entertainment leader known for captivating audiences with content that transcends time.”

An assortment of fan-favorite “Classic Doctor Who” stories starring Tom Baker (in The Deadly Assassin, The Ark in Space, The Robots of Death), Peter Davison (in EarthShock, The Caves of Androzani), Jon Pertwee (in Planet of the Spiders, Terror of the Autons), and the very first Doctor, William Hartnell (in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth) will be featured on Pluto TV’s Pop-Up channel.


Discovery, BBC Studios Ink 10-Year Pact for New SVOD Service

Discovery and BBC Studios April 1 announced a series of agreements for a new 10-year distribution deal, which includes content for a pending global streaming service. The deal also involves a development pact for BBC Studios’ genres of natural history, animals, adventure, science, travel, space, history and civilization documentaries.

The new partnership, effective in all territories outside the United Kingdom, Ireland and Greater China, will make Discovery the exclusive global home of BBC natural history programs on SVOD, including the “Planet Earth,” “Blue Planet” and “Life” franchises, as well as future BBC-commissioned series from BBC Studios, following their linear TV transmission.

Discovery also acquired SVOD rights to hundreds of hours of BBC programming across factual genres. All of this content will form one of the pillars of a new global streaming service, which will also include some of Discovery’s programming library and original content created for the service.

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The service will launch by 2020 and will form a key part of Discovery’s growing portfolio of direct-to-consumer services that will also be made available to TV distribution partners for retail.

Separately, the two companies finalized a strategic split in the joint UKTV’s channels business in the U.K. that complements the strategic focus and commercial business of both organizations.

“As the two market leaders in natural history and factual programming, [BBC CEO Tony Hall] and I look forward to working together again – our teams represent over 100 years of combined experience,” David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, said in a statement. “From the planets to the poles, and documenting every species in between, the world has always been part of Discovery’s DNA. It is who we are.”

ITV Boss: BritBox U.K. ‘Not Too Late’ in Crowded SVOD Ecosystem

In the aftermath of Apple’s decision to launch an enhanced subscription streaming video service through more than 1 billion Apple iOS connections globally, U.K. pay-TV operator ITV contends the market for British-themed SVOD service BritBox in the region is not mute.

The SVOD, launched two years ago in the United States as a $6.99 standalone service,  is a joint venture of BBC Studios and ITV featuring current and past programming seasons from the BBC and ITV.

Speaking this week to the Broadcasting Press Guild in London, Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said BritBox would fill a niche programming need when expanded across the Atlantic.

“It’s not Starz, it’s not Showtime, it’s not HBO. It’s not all about stuff you’re going to get on Sky and on the Web,” McCall said, as reported by Advanced-Television.

ITV boss Carolyn McCall

She said the proposed U.K. service, which has more than 500,000 subs in the U.S., wasn’t “too late” in the rapidly crowding over-the-top ecosystem, which includes U.K. mainstays Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

“It’s distinctively British-originated content,” McCall said. “It’s highly differentiated and BritBox will allow viewers to come to one place both to get the past: archive content curated in an interested and creative way; the present: because the window will be catch-up and then to BritBox, and then we will originate new content and that will be distinctively British.”

Indeed, she said BritBox U.K. would offer content specific to the region.

“The British product is not intended to roll out to the U.S.,” McCall said,

Viacom International Media Networks has expressed interest in joining the venture through its Channel 5 public service broadcasting subsidiary.

“I know there are different views about the need for it, but fundamentally, in the U.K. there’s a huge appetite for British programming,” Dan Fahy, VP, commercial and content distribution, VIMN, told the Connected TV World Summit 2019.

McCall confirmed discussions with VIMN as well as other public service broadcasters’ interest in the BritBox expansion.

“We’ve been having conversations with them for some time, so more to come,” she said.



Wildlife Wars: Netflix, Discovery, BBC Bow Competing Releases, Services

Documentaries on wildlife and natural habitats have apparently become a coveted genre in the over-the-top video market.

Media giant Discovery and the BBC reportedly are pooling resources to launch a subscription streaming video service offering subscribers access to their combined wildlife and natural history content, according to The Financial Times, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

The move follows Netflix signing a multiyear deal with James Honeyborne, creator and executive producer of the award-winning documentary series “Blue Planet II,” to produce new nature and science series.

Honeyborne’s BBC work includes the BAFTA-winning “Big Blue Live” and the Emmy-nominated series “Wild New Zealand.” He was also the series producer of “Africa.” Honeyborne, who trained as a biologist, has overseen some 35 films during his time as an executive producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

FT reported that Discovery (which owns HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, ID, TLC and Animal Planet, among others) would own the unnamed streaming service, with the BBC licensing its library of natural history programming, including content presented by David Attenborough.

Indeed, Discovery Feb. 7 announced the commission of a new wildlife conservation documentary from BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit. “The Red List” is the first non-BBC commission for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The two-hour doc follows the challenges of wildlife conservationists across the globe as they work to compile a comprehensive record of the state of the world’s wildlife.

“The Red List,” run by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, aims to give viewers a glimpse inside the worldwide effort to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

“This third-party commission from Discovery heralds a new dawn for BBC Studios and is a really exciting moment in the history of the BBC,” Mark Linsey, director, BBC Studios, said in a statement.