BritBox International last year appointed longtime streaming veteran Robert Schildhouse EVP of North America and GM of group marketing services.
At the forefront of the streaming industry since its inception, Schildhouse joined Hulu prior to its launch in 2008, eventually becoming the leader of Hulu’s content acquisition organization, where he and his team led many groundbreaking and innovative deals shepherding hundreds of studios, networks, and global rights holders into the AVOD and SVOD market for the first time. He later joined the CBS Global Distribution Group as SVP of digital licensing and distribution, where he later rose to EVP, responsible for monetizing the rights of the CBS and Showtime libraries to the streaming marketplace, and EVP of business development.
Media Play News asked Schildhouse about British content’s appeal in an exploding streaming marketplace and how his experience helps him navigate the growing industry.
MPN: You’ve experienced several sides of entertainment distribution, in positions from CBS to Hulu. How have these positions informed your view of the streaming marketplace?
Schildhouse: While at CBS and Hulu, I saw the entertainment landscape here in the U.S. evolve from Hollywood-centric to global, and a shift towards more customer-targeted entertainment services. Viewers are much more likely to tune into a series or movie from another country than they were 10 years ago; streaming helped to take down those barriers. For a film or series to succeed, it does not need to come out of Hollywood. As long as the content is compelling, audiences are willing to give it a chance.
MPN: What kind of content does BritBox offer and what’s its appeal?
Schildhouse: BritBox brings the best of British TV to viewers across North America, as well as Australia, South Africa and the Nordic markets. We are backed by two global leaders in British content — BBC and ITV — which has enabled us to bring programming that is not just from the U.K., but has that British DNA ingrained into its storytelling. What also sets BritBox apart from the competition is our team’s passion and deep knowledge of quality British content that enables BritBox programmers to be prescient about what trends are likely to emerge.
MPN: What advantages does such a niche subscription service have?
Schildhouse: BritBox is a destination for fans who are passionate about British content, and passionate about quality television in general. We know our lane really well, and we do not aim to be something for everyone. We see this as a huge advantage in being able to focus on what we know our current and future audience will love, and offering a truly differentiated experience with the deepest library of the best of British content in the market.
MPN: How does BritBox programming differ from other streamers that offer British content, such as Acorn and PBS?
Schildhouse: Our backing by powerhouses, the BBC and ITV, the biggest British entertainment brands in the world, enables us to bring the best in British programming to our audience. But beyond that, our key differentiator is our curation. For our audience, we seek out programming that is in the vein of what viewers expect from the U.K., including brilliant comedies, absorbing mysteries, critically acclaimed drama, and momentous live events like the recent “Coronation of King Charles” or the BAFTA Film Awards. Just because a show is created and produced in the U.K., it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a fit for our audience. The content we bring to our subscribers is imbued with that quality that they have come to expect.
MPN: What original programming do you have on Britbox and what original programming is upcoming?
Schildhouse: We’ve brought a number of exciting originals and co-productions to viewers since 2017 like “Stonehouse,” starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes, and Agatha Christie’s “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?,” starring Lucy Boynton and Will Poulter, with the screenplay written by Hugh Laurie. We have an exciting slate of other originals and co-productions coming up, including another Agatha Christie adaptation, Murder Is Easy; the highly anticipated Cary Grant biopic Archie, starring Jason Isaacs; and “Payback,” starring Peter Mullan and Morven Christie.
MPN: What’s the target audience for BritBox and what other audiences might it appeal to?
Schildhouse: BritBox is not only for the fan of British content looking to explore their passion more deeply, but also quality seekers in general. You can find British series, documentaries, films, and specials through other providers, but our extensive library and curation is unmatched.
MPN: Where can viewers find BritBox?
Schildhouse: The BritBox app is available for download across most major platforms and can be watched on smart TV, desktop, and mobile.
MPN: You raised prices recently. What was the increase and how was it received?
Schildhouse: We recently increased our price from $7.99 a month, or $69.99 a year in the U.S., to $8.99 a month, or $89.99 a year, to reflect our increased investment in the best of British programming. Our audience understands that we work hard to bring them an unmatched selection of British content, and they have remained quite loyal even with the price increase.
MPN: What makes BritBox less vulnerable to churn (viewers jumping in and out of the subscription) than other services?
Schildhouse: Being a highly curated streamer, serving a very passionate audience, we not only put a lot of time and effort into deciding what content to bring to BritBox, but we also listen closely to our audience. Through a combination of these efforts, we have been able to cultivate and serve a loyal subscriber base who truly feel they are getting something at BritBox they would not be able to get anywhere else. Ultimately, BritBox’s value proposition is the richness and breadth of our offering, and while we are very proud of our originals and higher profile shows, we have been very successful at keeping our subscribers engaged and happy with a regular drumbeat of new programming and an unparalleled library spanning the history of British television.
MPN: Has the service considered adding an ad-supported tier and, if not, why?
Schildhouse: At this time, we continue to stay fully subscriber-based, although we work closely with the BBC on BritBox Mysteries FAST channels that have been helpful in introducing the BritBox brand to viewers who may not be aware of our platform quite yet.
MPN: What’s your strategy in marketing BritBox?
Schildhouse: Our strategy is to attract not only fans of British content, but also open minded, curious viewers who are on the lookout for programming with great storytelling. Great storytelling is one of the key traits of British TV, and especially the kinds of programming we bring to BritBox. Our marketing is both broad and targeted to reach these viewers who are looking for that kind of experience.