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 (Superman).

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.

 

BritBox U.K. Expansion Undermined by Sky Cold Shoulder

BritBox, the British-themed SVOD founded in the United States in 2017, has encountered a significant roadblock expanding service in the U.K.

The joint venture between the BBC and ITV has reportedly been given the distribution cold shoulder by Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky and its 10 million subscribers.

BritBox, with 670,000 subs in the United States, was looking for Sky to help it gain a foothold in a U.K. market already inundated by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, with Disney+ coming in March, 2020.

Amy Jones, a former senior content manager with Amazon Prime Video, was hired in January as managing editor of BritBox to improve content programming.

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Sky, which operates online TV service Now TV, has a direct-access SVOD deal with Netflix.

“We’ll continue to discuss new partnerships with a range of content providers, but we remain disciplined in investing in those new partnerships where they clearly deliver additional value to our customers,” Sky said in a statement.

BritBox is reportedly close to securing distribution deals with Google Chromecast, among others.

“We are looking forward to extending the number of partners we have to enable BritBox to get to more and more homes,” ITV said in a statement.

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Netflix Gets New ‘Aardman’ Movie

Netflix has secured exclusive rights to animated holiday movie Robin Robin from Aardman Studios, the production company responsible for Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit and Shawn the Sheep.

The 30-minute musical tells the story of a baby robin redbreast named Robin who, after hatching in a rubbish dump, is raised by a loving family of mice. As she grows up, her differences become more apparent.

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“When we [got] the concept for Robin Robin, we knew instantly that this was a rare and special project that we had to make together” Sarah Cox, executive creative director at Aardman, said in a statement.

Robin Robin is currently in production at Aardman’s facility in the United Kingdom and will debut on Netflix for the holidays in 2020.

Aardman’s move to Netflix from U.K. distributor BBC reportedly involved money and global distribution.

“Netflix has the ability to buy for the whole world rather than just the U.K.,” director Sean Clarke told The Guardian. “Everything we’ve done [in the past] has been done with the BBC, but BBC budgets are under pressure. The last one we did was probably four or five years ago. The BBC would have loved to have taken Robin Robin. But they weren’t in a position to afford it.”

Alexi Wheeler, manager of kids and family international originals at Netflix, said the SVOD behemoth plans to introduce the Aardman brand to “new generations of families” around the world.

“The craft of stop motion animation through Robin Robin … warms the heart and can be enjoyed by the whole family,” Wheeler said.

BritBox Expands Management Team Ahead of U.K. Launch

BritBox, the British-themed subscription streaming video service launched in the United States in 2017 by the BBC and ITV, has added executives ahead of its Q4 bow in the United Kingdom.

The service, which costs $6.99 in the U.S., will launch priced at £5.99 per ($7.40) month.

The management team is led by Reemah Sakaan, who expanded her BritBox U.S. and Canadian duties to become group director SVOD – ITV and is responsible for leading the U.K. launch.

Sakaan reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.

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Sakaan is joined by Amy Jones, who previously worked across co-productions and acquisitions at Amazon Prime Video and is overseeing commissions, acquisition and scheduling for the streamer.

Amy Townsend, previously marketing director at Comcast-owned Now TV, joined as director of consumer marketing and head of product. Lee Marshall, who previously led product for ITV Hub, is responsible for the service’s product build.

Steve Waterman, also formerly from Now TV, has taken the helm as head of research, insight & data, while ITV technology stalwart Thomas Thomas heads up technology and operations.

Tom Price is director of commercial and financial planning, bringing experience from the creation of BritBox U.S. and as a director of Cirkus, and Neill Torbit, former lead creative at Sky, completes the group as Creative Lead.

The BritBox venture and management team is supported by longtime home entertainment Soumya Sriraman, who is president of U.S. operations.

“With a talented team of subscription, streaming and digital experts alongside the best of ITV and BBC’s content expertise, we are looking forward to delivering the breakthrough launch of BritBox over the coming months; it truly is a service that brings the best of British creativity together,” Sakaan said.

 

BBC Boss: TV Facing ‘Second Wave of Disruption’

First came Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu — the three subscription streaming video-on-demand service upending the traditional pay-TV ecosystem and business model.

The SVOD challengers resulted in media companies rolling out standalone online TV platforms such as Dish Networks’ Sling TV and AT&T’s former DirecTV Now (now AT&T TV), among others.

Later this week, Tony Hall, CEO of the venerable BBC, is slated to give a speech at the Royal Television Society confab in Cambridge outlining what he perceives is a second “American invasion” featuring new-edition SVOD services.

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Indeed, pending U.S. services coming to the U.K. include Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and Apple TV+, among others.

“Our industry is about to enter a second wave of disruption,” Hall said in prepared comments. “The first was about the rise of Netflix, Amazon and Spotify — market shapers that fundamentally changed audience behavior, often at the cost of huge losses or massive cross-subsidy.

“The second wave will see a range of new entrants entering an already crowded market,” he said.

The BBC is fighting back by licensing original content, “Love Island,” “Gavin & Stacey,” “Gentleman Jack” (available in the U.S. on HBO) and “Broadchurch” on Britbox, the SVOD service co-launched in the U.S. and now the United Kingdom with ITV.

“We’re not Netflix, we’re not Spotify. We’re not Apple News. We’re so much more than all of them put together,” Hall said.

Indeed, BBC was one of the first broadcasters to launch a branded streaming media devices — BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds — to capture changing consumer habits.

“In the space of a year, iPlayer’s reach to young audiences is up by a third,” Hall said. “There is really promising growth right across the piece. And that’s before we roll out our full plans for extended availability and exclusive content.”

HBO Max, BBC Partner for New Original Comedy Series

WarnerMedia’s pending subscription streaming video service HBO Max has partnered with BBC Three for new London-based comedy series “Starstruck.”

The six-part show is written, created by and starring 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Rose Matafeo.

The show, which will also be broadcast in the U.K., follows twentysomething Rose (Matafeo), a millennial juggling two dead-end jobs and navigating the awkward morning-after when she discovers the complications of accidentally sleeping with a movie star.

Rose Matafeo

“The BBC have been so supportive of this project from the get-go and to be able to get this show in front of American audiences at the same time via HBO Max is truly exciting,” Matafeo said in a statement. “I’m thrilled we get to make it, otherwise it would’ve technically just been a creepy fan fiction script that I submitted to the national broadcaster.”

“The minute we were introduced to Rose and ‘Starstruck,’ we knew we had something special,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “She is exactly the type of original, culture-forward creator we are excited to be working with at HBO Max and we are looking forward to a long partnership.”

Aubrey, along with other Max executives, is profiled in the “2019 Women in Home Entertainment” issue of Media Play News.

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Matafeo won “Best Comedy Show” for her solo show “Horndog,” which has enjoyed sell-out performances around the world, including the New Zealand International Comedy Festival and a Barry Award nominated run at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

Research: OTT Revenue Forecast to Reach $22 Billion in 2019

Based on 66 OTT providers, led by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, U.S. OTT access revenue grew 37% to $16.3 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach $22 billion in 2019, according to a new research from Convergence Research.

The research firm has released two new reports, “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: OTT and TV” and “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet, Telephone, Wireless.”

Still, U.S. TV subscriber average revenue per user (ARPU) is still forecast to be three times U.S. OTT subscriber household ARPU in 2021.

The firm estimates 2018 U.S. cable, satellite, telco TV access (not including OTT) revenue declined 3% to $103.4 billion in 2018 and forecasts 2019 will see a similar decline. Also, 2018 saw a decline of 4.01 million U.S. TV subscribers and 2017 a decline of 3.66 million, according to the firm, which forecasts a decline of 4.56 million TV subs for 2019. The U.S. TV subscriber
base will decline 5% in 2019, from a decline of 4% in 2018, according to the firm’s estimates.

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By the end of 2018, the firm estimates 30% of households did not have a traditional TV subscription with a cable, satellite, or telco TV access provider, up from 26% at the end of 2017. The firm forecasts that number to reach 34% of households by the end of 2019. Convergence Research estimates 2018 saw almost 5 million cord cutter/never household additions.

The firm projects that a number of OTT plays, including large and niche, will fail due to insufficient subscriber traction, cost and competition, noting major programmers continue to accelerate their direct-to-consumer drive, including Disney and WarnerMedia. Other developments noted by the firm include:

  • Hulu spends more on content per sub than either Amazon or Netflix and continues to discount (notably with Spotify);
  • CBS/Showtime’s OTT subscriber trajectory has been faster than expected;
  • Discovery has backed and supplied Philo, gone live with Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV, and will be launching an OTT service with the BBC;
  • NBC Universal will be launching an OTT service in 2020;
  • and Viacom has backed and supplied Philo and others, acquired Pluto and Awesomeness TV and is producing for Amazon and Netflix.

BritBox SVOD Service Heading Home

Following the successful launch of a British-themed subscription streaming video service in the United States, the creators of BritBox are planning to bow the platform in the United Kingdom.

The BBC and ITV Feb. 26 said they are working out the legalities, anticipating that other partners will be added to the service. Both companies said they would speak to regulators and the wider industry about their proposals.

While neither the BBC or ITV would disclose pricing for the service, launch is planned for the second half of 2019. Consumers can pre-register for the service at www.BritBox.co.uk.

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BritBox U.K. would claim to have the biggest collection of British content available on any streaming service, in addition to original content specifically created for the streaming service.

“I am really pleased that ITV and the BBC are at the concluding stage of discussions to launch a new streaming service,” Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said in a statement. “BritBox will be the home for the best of British creativity – celebrating the best of the past, the best of today and investing in new British originated content in the future.

The BBC and ITV launched BritBox in the United States in 2017, with the service recently topping 500,000 subscribers. The tally is significant considering British-themed SVOD competitors include AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

There is no shortage of SVOD service in the U.K., with both Netflix and Amazon well established. Data from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board found that more than 12 million households have at least one SVOD service – with annual growth in homes with any SVOD service at 20%. That percentage increases to 32% with 4 million homes having more than one subscription.

ITV claims 43% of all connected homes in the U.K. are interested in subscribing to a SVOD service featuring British content. This percentage increases to over 50% in homes with a Netflix subscription.

“It’s an exciting time for the viewing public,” said BBC director general Tony Hall.