Pluto TV Inks BBC Distribution Deal in Europe

ViacomCBS’s free ad-supported streaming platform Pluto TV has signed a distribution deal with the BBC to distribute branded channels across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain. The FAST platform is launching streaming service in Italy on Oct. 28.

The BBC channels focus new and classic “Doctor Who” series episodes, in addition to dramas such as “Call the Midwife,” “War and Peace,” “Great Expectations” and “The Musketeers,” among others.

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“This new partnership with BBC allows Pluto TV to super-serve our European audiences with hundreds of hours of premium BBC drama content that fans know and love, all for free,” Olivier Jollet, SVP and GM of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV continuously expanding content offering is a key component of ViacomCBS’s diversified global streaming eco-system.”

Nick Coulter, director of global new business development at BBC Studios, said the deal gives the venerable broadcaster/producer new distribution channels.

“We are always looking for new ways to bring our talent and shows to audiences around the world,” Coulter said. “Pluto TV will help us reach old fans and new, with some of our best-loved dramas alongside familiar classics.”

Netflix Turning ‘Luther’ Series Into Movie Starring Idris Elba

“Luther,” the award-winning BBC drama that helped cement Idris Elba as a major international star playing troubled DCI John Luther, is becoming a major feature film from Netflix and Chernin Entertainment.

The movie will be written by series creator and Emmy nominee Neal Cross (Mosquito Coast), and directed by fellow Emmy nominee Jamie Payne. Grammy, Tony, Emmy winner and two-time Academy Award nominee Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) and Emmy nominee Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes), have joined the movie cast.

The BBC series, which premiered in 2010, has completed five seasons on Netflix. Elba won two Golden Globes and a Royal Television Society best actor award for his performance in the titular role.

The announcement follows Chernin Entertainment’s Fear Street trilogy, which debuted on Netflix this summer. Next up from Chernin and Netflix is Slumberland, starring Jason Momoa.

Netflix, BBC Partner for Content Featuring and Produced by Disabled Creatives

Seeking to increase representation of disabled talent in front and behind the camera, Netflix and the BBC have forged a five-year partnership aimed at producing shows and dramas focusing on people with disabilities.

The two media giants, which have partnered on myriad projects over the years, said they would ramp up efforts to consider projects from U.K. producers and writers who identify as deaf, blind, disabled and/or neurodivergent, i.e. autistic spectrum disorders.

In a statement, Netflix and the BBC said future projects aim to “challenge the limits that the industry might unconsciously put on disability,” and would be evaluated along with conventional “original dramas already being developed.”

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“Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creators are some of the least well represented groups on television in the U.K.,” Anne Mensah, VP of series for Netflix U.K., said in a statement. “Put simply, we want to change that fact.  Together with the BBC, we hope to help these creators to tell the biggest and boldest stories and speak to the broadest possible British and global audience.”

Piers Wenger, director of drama at the BBC, said working with Netflix on the concept would help level the playing field for disabled creators in the U.K.

“We would like to thank Anne and her team for the readiness and vision they have shown in coming on board to develop this initiative with us,” Wenger said.

FilmRise Acquires Domestic AVOD Rights to British Series ‘Line of Duty’

Seeking to up its profile of British-centric programming, FilmRise Aug. 25 announced the acquisition of U.S. AVOD distribution rights to 23 episodes of the BBC popular drama series “Line of Duty.” The program follows the investigations of AC-12, a controversial police anti-corruption unit.

The series follows Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), a former authorized firearms officer who was transferred to Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12), a unit tasked with uncovering police corruption. Arnott is partnered with Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), a highly commended undercover officer with a keen investigative instinct. They work under the supervision of Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrien Dunbar). Throughout the series, AC-12 investigates seemingly disparate cases involving allegedly corrupt police officers, with each season focusing on a different corrupt officer.

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“Line of Duty,” garnered 4.1 million viewers collectively when it originally aired in 2012, becoming the best-performing drama series in 10 years on BBC Two. The series won the Royal Television Society Award for Best Drama Series, an Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and has been nominated for a number of BAFTA TV Awards. Due to its success, “Line of Duty” began airing on BBC One in 2017, where it launched its fourth season.

The deal was negotiated by CEO Danny Fisher; Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions; and Berry Meyerowitz, president of Quiver Entertainment.

“This award-winning and critically acclaimed series is a wonderful addition to our recently launched British TV OTT channel,” Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “Now, for the first time, U.S. fans can enjoy ‘Line of Duty’ without having to subscribe to a streaming service.”

True Crime BritBox Original ‘In the Footsteps of Killers’ to Stream on Service Beginning July 6

The true crime Britbox Original “In the Footsteps of Killers” is exclusively streaming on the service in North America beginning July 6.

In the series investigated like a documentary and filmed as a drama, “Silent Witness” actress Emilia Fox teams up with top criminologist Professor David Wilson to solve Britain’s most heinous murders.

Through Fox’s extensive research for her role in the hit BBC Series, she has become an expert in unsolved cases. Combining her talent with Professor Wilson’s professional background in studying serial killers, the unlikely pair investigate a different unsolved murder in each episode. The series follows the duo as they base themselves in the vicinity of the crime and reexamine the evidence for themselves. By meeting with police, witnesses, journalists, experts and others, the two walk the murder scene in the footsteps of the killer.

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There are three episodes: “The Disappearance of the Milk Carton Kids,” “The Disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh” and “The Murder of Rita Ellis.”

Crime Thriller Series ‘Grace’ Premieres on BritBox Streaming Service April 27

BritBox, the subscription streaming service from BBC Studios and ITV, on March 18 announced it is expanding its collection of originals in North America with a new crime thriller series based on the popular Roy Grace novels by Peter James.

“Grace,” starring John Simm (“Doctor Who,” Trauma) as the title detective, premieres April 27 on BritBox in the United States and Canada. The screenwriter is Russell Lewis, who created the popular mystery series “Endeavor.” The Roy Grace novels have sold more than 20 million copies in 37 languages.

“Grace” follows hard-working Brighton-based detective Roy Grace, who because of his unorthodox crime-solving methods is exiled to investigating long-forgotten cold cases. After a stag night prank appears to go wrong the groom has gone missing, and Grace, still haunted by the disappearance of his wife, and at risk of losing the job he loves, is tapped by his colleague, Detective Sergeant Glenn Branson (Richie Campbell, Small Axe) to help solve the time-sensitive case.

“Grace contains all the elements of what our audience is looking for from BritBox: an award-winning writing team, a phenomenal British cast, and, most importantly, a compelling mystery story packed with shocking twists,” said Emily Powers, head of BritBox North America. “As the only authentic British streaming service available in North America, we have and continue to premiere edgy, modern, premium content.”

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“We’re absolutely delighted to be working with Russell Lewis and Peter James, two of the greatest writers around, and to have the chance to bring Grace alive on screen,” said executive producers Andrew O’Connor and Paul Sandler of Second Act Productions. “Like so many other readers, we’ve been fans of the Grace books since they first appeared, so this is a fantastically exciting project for us.”

“Grace” is co-produced by Second Act Productions, Tall Story Pictures (both part of ITV Studios) and Vaudeville Productions, and is distributed internationally by ITV Studios. This season will feature two 90-minute standalone TV films based on the first two books in the series: Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead.

“Grace” is the latest addition to BritBox North America’s slate of original films and series, which include true crime co-productions “The Pembrokeshire Murders” and “Honour” as well as “A Confession,” “There She Goes” and “McDonald & Dodds.”

BritBox subscriptions are $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year — after an introductory free trial period — on Roku, Amazon Fire TV stick, Apple TV (fourth generation), Samsung, LG and all iOS and Android devices, AirPlay, Chromecast, and online. BritBox is also available on Amazon Channels for Prime members and on Apple TV Channels on supported devices.

‘BBC Select’ Subscription Streaming Service Launched in U.S.

The BBC has launched its new BBC Select streaming service in the United States, following the ITV co-partnered bow of BritBox in 2017. The $4.99 monthly documentary-themed service is available through Amazon Prime Video Channels and Apple TV.

Programming will focus on social and political-themed content, including the 2020 Presidential Election, social justice movement, culture and the pandemic, among other themes.

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Content includes “The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty,” “The Fall of an Icon,” Grayson Perry’s “Big American Road Trip,” “54 Days: America and the Pandemic” and “TV’s Black Renaissance: Reggie Yates in Hollywood,” among others.

“BBC Select is a powerhouse of ideas, firing off in all directions,” Jon Farrar, VOD director for BBC Studios and co-founder of BritBox, said in a statement. “As Select content reveals our world — in these complex times — through the lenses of culture, politics, and ideas, I hope we come to understand the forces that shape what it means to be alive in 2021. We hope our shows equally keep our viewers inspired and optimistic.”

Netflix Upped U.K. Content Spend 50% to $1 Billion in 2020

After signing a 10-year lease for original content production at Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom, Netflix has significantly upped content spending across the Atlantic.

The streaming video behemoth is reportedly set to spend $1 billion (£750 million) on U.K. episodic and feature film productions in 2020, up from the £500 million spent in 2019 and spearheaded by “The Witcher,” starring Henry Cavill (Man of Steel).

Netflix, which launched streaming service in the U.K. and Ireland in 2012, topped more than 13 million subscribers in the region at the end of March.

“The U.K. is an incredibly important market to Netflix and we are proud to be increasing our investment in the U.K.’s creative industries,” a Netflix U.K. rep told The Guardian. “‘The Crown,’ ‘Sex Education’ and ‘The Witcher’ are among the shows that have been made in the U.K. this year and will be watched by the world. These shows are a testament to the depth of talent that exists here.”

Regardless, Netflix’s content spend still lags that of the BBC’s TV spend of £1.6 billion and ITV’s £1.1 billion, respectively. Both companies co-own BritBox, a competing SVOD service launched in the U.S. and now also operating in the U.K. and Australia.

BritBox to Stream Complete BBC Shakespeare Collection

BritBox, the subscription streaming service from BBC Studios and ITV, will launch the full BBC Television Shakespeare Collection on May 26. This is the first time all 37 adaptations will be available to stream in one place.

The collection includes comedies and dramas such as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “As You Like It” with Oscar winner Helen Mirren; “Cymbeline” with Robert Lindsay; “Henry VI Part I” with Oscar winner Brenda Blethyn; “The Taming of the Shrew” with Emmy winner John Cleese; and “Romeo and Juliet” with late Golden Globe winner Alan Rickman.

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BritBox is available for $6.99 per month — after an introductory free trial period — on Roku, Apple TV 4th Gen, Samsung, LG and all iOS and Android devices, AirPlay, Chromecast and online. BritBox is also available on Amazon Channels for Prime members and on Apple TV Channels on supported devices.

“Never before have all 37 of BBC’s Shakespeare collection been available in one place, as a huge Shakespeare connoisseur, selfishly I wanted this for myself, I hope everyone feels the same,” BritBox CEO Soumya Sriraman said in a statement. “We continue on our promise to be the only authentic British service available.”

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BritBox to Distribute ‘Doctor Who Classic’ Content in the U.K.

BritBox in the United Kingdom will soon include a collection of classic “Doctor Who” content, including episodes, spin-offs, documentaries and related features. The content will be available beginning Dec. 26.

The SVOD platform from the BBC and ITV bowed in the U.K. on Nov. 7 after launching in the United States on March 7, 2017 as competition to Netflix and AMC Networks’ Acorn TV. It now has more than 650,000 subscribers in North America.

A total of 558 “Doctor Who” episodes featuring the first eight Doctors from William Hartnell to Paul McGann, form the backbone of the collection. The collection also includes four complete stories: “The Tenth Planet,” “The Moonbase,” “The Ice Warriors” and “The Invasion,” which feature a combination of original content and animation and total 22 episodes. An unaired story titled “Shada,” which was originally presented as six episodes, has been remixed into a 130-minute special.

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“BritBox becoming the first complete digital home of ‘Doctor Who Classic’ creates a special opportunity for fans and streamers across the U.K.,” Reemah Sakaan, group director ITV SVOD, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to expanding the collection even further by working with the show creators to lovingly restore lost and previously unavailable episodes in the months to come and offering a truly exclusive experience.”

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Additional content includes animated series, “The Power Of The Daleks” and “The Macra Terror”; orphaned episodes, “The Crusade” (2 parts), “Galaxy 4,” “The Space Pirates” and “The Celestial Toymaker,” Doctor Who: The Movie, “An Unearthly Child: The Pilot Episode” and “An Adventure In Space And Time” will also be available on the service, in addition to “The Underwater Menace,” “The Wheel In Space” and “The Web Of Fear.”

“It’s thrilling to partner with BritBox and see all this amazing ‘Doctor Who Classic’ content congregate in one place where subscribers can stream to their hearts’ content — some experiencing the show for the first time whilst others will simply be enjoying it all over again,” said Sally de St Croix, franchise director for “Doctor Who” at BBC Studios.

In August, WarnerMedia’s pending SVOD platform HBO Max announced securing exclusive U.S. streaming rights to “Doctor Who,” including all 11 seasons of the sci-fi hit. As part of Max’s new long-term deal with BBC Studios, the streamer will also be the exclusive domestic SVOD home for future seasons — featuring Jodie Whittaker as the “Doctor” — after they air on BBC America.

“‘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” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max and president, TNT, TBS, and truTV.