BritBox Streaming Video Service Tops 500,000 Subscribers

BritBox, the two-year-old subscription streaming video service launched in the U.S. and Canada by BBC Studios and ITV, has surpassed 500,000 paying subscribers.

The tally, which rivals AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, exceeded the company’s half-a-million member projection by two months. BritBox has been in operation in Canada for 11 months.

“British content is as popular as ever, and we are doubling down by making amazing series accessible while continuing to build our ever-growing community around desirable content,” Soumya Sriraman, president of the service said in a statement.

The service streams current seasons of “Vera,” starring Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Emmy-nominated actress Brenda Blethyn (“Pride and Prejudice”), “Maigret,”starring BAFTA winner Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English), “Hold the Sunset,” starring Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee John Cleese (“Fawlty Towers”), and “Bliss, starring Independent Spirit Award winner Heather Graham.

Last July, BritBox bowed its first original content with the reboot of “Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.”

“The fantastic growth of BritBox is a testament to the work of the team involved since its launch, the quality of programmes the BBC and ITV offer through the service, and the appetite for the best British TV amongst viewers in the U.S. and Canada,” said Martin Goswami, director of pay and distribution at ITV.

BritBox continues to add British reality and entertainment staples including “QI” and “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway,” seasonal comedies for the holidays such as “Click & Collect” and “Upstart Crow,” and factual lifestyle strands “Springwatch” and “Gardeners’ World.”

Many of BritBox’s series are available within hours of their U.K. broadcast, including the soaps “EastEnders, “Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Casualty,” and Holby City.” Dramas include “Silent Witness,” “Little Boy Blue,” “Three Girls,” and Cold Feet.


11th Season of Modern ‘Doctor Who’ on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 29

 Doctor Who: The Complete Eleventh Series, the first season of the legendary British sci-fi franchise to feature an actress in the title role, will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 29 from BBC Studios.

In taking on the 13th incarnation of the Doctor since “Doctor Who” debuted in 1963, Jodie Whittaker becomes the first female Doctor. In the 11th season since the series was restarted in 2005, The Doctor arrives on Earth to thwart an alien hunter and takes on three new companions (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill) for more adventures through space and time.

The three-disc season 11 set will include 10 episodes.

The 2019 New Year’s Day special Doctor Who: Resolution will be released as a separate Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 19.

Report: Netflix Set to Pass Comcast-Owned Sky in U.K. Subscribers

Netflix is projected to pass Comcast-owned satellite pay-TV operator Sky in subscribers by the end of the year, according to new data from Ampere Analysis.

The London-based research firm expects Netflix to end 2018 with 9.78 million subscribers compared to 9.64 million for Sky – which is down 55,000 subs from the end of 2017, according to The Guardian.

Netflix entered the U.K. market in 2011 – its second foreign market after Canada. The SVOD pioneer launched global access (130 countries) in January 2016.

Ofcom, media regulator in the U.K., in July projected Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Sky’s Now TV over-the-top video service would reach a combined 15.4 million subs by the end of the year – surpassing 15.1 million pay-TV subs.

With British-centric programming at the core of American SVOD services such as BritBox and Acorn TV, Ofcom in November called on U.K. public TV broadcasters to join forces to create a competing over-the-top video platform.

The U.K. represents the second-largest SVOD markets for Netflix and Prime Video.

“It does indicate the growing power of subscription video-on-demand services that Netflix has managed to achieve greater household reach in the U.K. than one of the most successful satellite TV companies in the world,” Ampere analyst Richard Broughton said in a statement.

At the same time, Broughton says Sky’s average-revenue-per-subscriber (ARPU) dwarfs Netflix.

“Netflix makes just £7.99 a subscriber; Sky makes on average almost £50 per subscriber per month,” he said.


Disc Sale Declines Undermine BBC Worldwide Fiscal Revenue

BBC Worldwide July 11 said it generated £1.04 billion ($1.38 billion) in fiscal year revenue, ended March 31. That compared to revenue of £1.05 billion ($1.39 billion) during the previous-year period.

The BBC, which combined BBC Worldwide with BBC Studios in April into a single entity, attributed the revenue dip in part to declining packaged media sales, including DVD.

Regardless, pre-tax earnings increased 42% to £118.3 million ($157 million) from £83.5 million ($110 million) last year. The BBC said the increase reflected strong content sales, cost efficiencies across branded services and overhead savings.

Other highlights included BritBox, the North American SVOD service partnership with ITV, ended the fiscal year with 250,000 subscribers after bowing service in Canada.

BBC Worldwide entered into several new global deals during the fiscal year, including with Shanghai Media Group Pictures (a leading Chinese media company), which will see an expansion of the “Doctor Who” brand in China and partnerships with Foxtel, ABC, Sky and Fetch were cemented with new or continued deals in Australia and New Zealand.

Original program, “Blue Planet II,” proved a major success with international audiences, with the premiere becoming the most-watched ad-supported nature episode in nearly eight years on BBC America. “Planet Earth: Blue Planet II” amassed more than 250 million views on Chinese VOD platform Tencent in Q4, ending Dec. 31, 2017.


BBC Studios Re-Launches, Seeks Chinese Funding

Looking to up its mojo as both a distributor and producer of original programing, the BBC Group April 4 re-launched BBC Studios following its merger last November with BBC Worldwide.

The revamped studio will see content through the full life cycle of development, commissioning, production and co-production, sales and distribution and will underpin the creation of new BBC-owned intellectual property.

Headed by CEO Tim Davie and Mark Linsey, chief creative officer, BBC Studios fields a 3,000-person workforce and budget of more than $1.9 billion. It is eyeing global co-production opportunities in Australia and China, recently opening offices in Sydney and Beijing, respectively.

Executive producer Matthew Springford will be based at the BBC office in Beijing along with the BBC Studios’ distribution team working with Chinese TV stations and digital platforms to co-develop and co-produce original content and new formats across all genres.

“BBC Studios exists to inspire audiences globally, strengthening the BBC financially and creatively, working with the very best British talent … in this new age of content,” Davie said in a statement.

No small task in the age of Netflix, which employs 5,400 people and is spending $8 billion on content in 2018, including about 700 TV shows and movies — much of it British-based.