BBC Studios Set to Launch BBC Select Streaming Service

BBC Studios will launch an ad-free subscription streaming channel called BBC Select in early 2021 on Amazon Prime Video Channels and the Apple TV app. BBC Select will offer a range of programs from the United Kingdom covering three main topics: culture, politics and ideas.

“For nearly a century, the BBC has been synonymous with extraordinary television programs — full stop. Name any genre, the BBC is best in class at identifying talent and providing them a platform for expression,” said Rebecca Glashow, president of BBC Studios — Americas. “As we shift our business focus to engaging our fans direct, the digital space offers us the opportunity to bring audiences a portfolio of shows that bring new ideas and perspectives into the conversation. Our research has shown that audiences are looking for an alternative to what is already out there. BBC Select is it.”

The BBC already operates as a joint venture with ITV the SVOD service BritBox, which also offers a selection of British programming.

BBC Select will feature a range of British talent and shows including Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry and his programs on class, masculinity, and identity, including his latest, “Grayson Perry: Big American Road Trip”; author and documentarian of social issues Stacey Dooley and her series “Brainwashing Stacey”; historian Professor Sir Simon Schama with his new series “The Romantic Revolution”; and filmmaker Louis Theroux and a large collection of his work, including Selling Sex, Surviving America’s Most Hated Family and Talking to Anorexia.

“BBC Select is for those who crave knowledge, new perspectives, and programs that are not your standard fare,” said Louise la Grange, GM and launch Director. “BBC Select will combine a rich line up of never-before-seen shows in the U.S. and Canada with a prized portfolio of thought-provoking, eye-opening programs that provide context and color to the world we all share — all in one place.”

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Exclusives to the service include:

  • “Shock of the Nude,” hosted by Professor of Classics Mary Beard, who gives a personal and provocative take on the nude in western art, from ancient Greece to the present, and asks why artists and viewers seem so obsessed by nudity.
  • “Reggie Yates in China” sees actor, DJ, and presenter Reggie Yates travel to four very different cities in China to discover the new fault-lines in society and how they affect a generation who have grown up with seemingly more freedom than that of any other in the last 70 years.
  • “In Search of Frida Kahlo” follows musician Emeli Sandé — who was inspired by the paintings of Kahlo when writing her album — as she visits Mexico City to tell the story of one of Mexico’s most famous artists.
  • “Fall of an Icon” explores the life of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, who after 15 years of house arrest was celebrated as an icon of democracy. But years on, she is now seen by many as an international pariah.
  • “Mystery of the Missing Princess” tells the story of Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, who attempted to escape from torture and imprisonment at the hands of her father.
  • “Putin — A Russian Spy Story” is the portrait of a politician who modeled himself on the Russian James Bond and whose presidency reads like a spy thriller.
  • “The Last Igloo” follows a lone Inuit as he hunts, fishes, and constructs an igloo. It tells the story of skills that are disappearing and of how climate change is affecting the lives of Greenland’s indigenous people.
  • BAFTA-winning documentarian Adam Curtis and his “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” argues that computers have failed to liberate humanity, and instead have “distorted and simplified our view of the world around us.”

 

Pricing, launching platforms and more content will be announced at a later date.

 

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 Streaming Service Gets New North American Head

Emily Powers has been promoted to EVP and head of BritBox, spearheading the streamer’s business for North America.

She effectively succeeds Soumya Sriraman, who stepped down as president and CEO of BritBox earlier this month.

Powers joined BritBox in September 2015 as SVP of commercial, and was promoted to chief revenue officer in July 2020.

Emily Powers

In her new role, Powers will continue to lead all commercial relationships, distribution partnerships, performance marketing and customer retention, as well as evaluate, foster and deliver strong business development opportunities. Powers now adds editorial and creative to her purview — working closely with the team to bring British television shows to BritBox. Currently, she is also overseeing much of the business operations for the launch of BritBox in Australia.

“Emily is an essential part of the BritBox team who has been instrumental to BritBox’s early development, followed by rapid growth and significant successes since launch,” said Rebecca Glashow, president of BBC Studios Americas. “This promotion is well-deserved, and I anticipate BritBox will continue to soar under Emily’s leadership.”

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“I look forward to guiding the growth of BritBox in North America,” Powers said. “Over the past five years I have had the privilege of being part of the senior team that has transformed BritBox from an initial concept to a hit service with more than 1.5 million subscribers, which in turn has laid the foundation for global expansion.  In this new role, I will look for innovative ways to continue fostering the service’s success.”

Powers was a member of the original team that developed and launched BritBox, along with Sriraman. In her initial role, she was responsible for writing the initial business plan, negotiating and executing the joint-venture relationship between BBC and ITV, and directing the service’s launch in the United States and Canada.

Powers joined BBC Studios (then BBC Worldwide) in 2012 as director, strategy and was later promoted to VP, strategy and business development. In this role, Powers worked to support all BBC Studios’ businesses in a strategic capacity, including program sales, digital distribution, BBC.com, Los Angeles productions, and provided strategic deal support and analysis for the spin-off of BBC America into a joint-venture with AMC Networks.

Prior to her tenure with the BBC Studios, Powers was director of business development in NBCUniversal’s Digital Distribution group.

Soumya Sriraman Steps Down as CEO of Streamer BritBox

Longtime home entertainment executive Soumya Sriraman is stepping down as president and CEO of BritBox, the British-themed subscription VOD service she helped launch in the United States in 2017 with ITV and BBC Studios. No reason was cited for her departure at the end of the month. ITV and BBC are expected to announce new management shortly.

BritBox, which competes against AMC Networks’ Acorn TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for fans of British movies and TV shows, had generated more than 1.5 million subscribers.

Soumya Sriraman

“Soumya is a trailblazer. Her experience, leadership, and thorough knowledge of British content has been the perfect fit for BritBox,” Rebecca Glashow, president of BBC Studios Americas, and Martin Goswami, group strategic partnership and distribution director for ITV, said in a joint statement. “We thank Soumya for her passion and commitment in leading the BritBox team and shaping the service into what it is today.”

Sriraman had been key to helping BritBox launch original series such as “The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco” and “There She Goes,” featuring David Tennant and Jessica Hynes, the latter winning a BAFTA Award for her role.

“I have enjoyed writing every minute of the BritBox story — from imagining it six years ago to building and growing it,” Sriraman said. “I am so proud of my team who has worked tirelessly to exceed all expectations. I am grateful to the leadership at the BBC and ITV for their stewardship on this journey and I now look forward to my next chapter.”

Prior to BritBox, Sriraman had been EVP of franchises and digital enterprises at BBC Worldwide, with a stint as CEO of Palisades Tartan Video before that.

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 Touts Agatha Christie Content as Rival Collects License Revenue

BritBox, the British-themed SVOD service operating in North America and the United Kingdom and co-owned by the BBC and ITV, has secured rights to what it says is the largest collection of Agatha Christie-themed content.

Rights include myriad seasons of “Poirot,” “Marple,” “Partners in Crime” and “Poirot: Mysterious Affair at Styles,” which bowed May 15 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Christie’s first novel.

“Only BritBox could create this Agatha Christie collection — working together with BBC and ITV to bring together all of these celebrated adaptations,” Soumya Sriraman, CEO of BritBox, said in a statement. “As the home of great British mysteries, we couldn’t be more proud to be the true home of the most beloved portrayals of Christie’s famous characters.”

BritBox is releasing Christie-themed adaptations including, “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” and “The Seven Dials Mystery,” featuring Sir John Gielgud, in addition to “The Secret Adversary.”

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“I am delighted to see all these shows available in North America on BritBox,” said James Prichard, CEO and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. (ACL). “They give a real flavor of the depth and quality of my great grandmother’s work, and I am sure audiences will enjoy them.”

Interestingly, AMC Networks, which owns and operates rival British-themed streaming service Acorn TV, is the majority (64%) stakeholder in Agatha Christie Ltd. AMC reported $6 million operating income from ACL in 2019.

Acorn TV launched in the United Kingdom in Q1 — nine years after bowing in the United States as an alternative to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The company expects to generate upwards of 4 million combined paid subscribers for its four SVOD services, which include Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC (Urban Movie Channel) by the end of the year.

U.K. SVOD Market to Double Subs in Five Years

It’s a SVOD market in the United Kingdom — regardless of the coronavirus pandemic. New research from GlobalData contends growth in subscription video-on-demand is set to double over the next five years. The total number of SVOD subscriptions is expected to increase from 22.4 million to 44.6 million. Total market revenue is projected to also double to £3 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2024 from £1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) last year.

While the London-based research firm agrees there will be some positive impact on SVOD adoption from COVID-19, it expects this to be outweighed by a combination of lockdown-driven adoption and consumer take-up of new services such as Disney+, Apple TV+, Acorn TV and BritBox, among others.

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“Prior to COVID-19, the SVOD market in the U.K. was experiencing a high rate of growth, with no sign of plateauing,” Joel Cooper, senior director, telecoms market data and intelligence, said in a statement.

The U.K. market has traditionally been dominated by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, with Comcast-owned Sky’s Now TV in third place. GlobalData now believes Disney+’s impact is expected to be particularly pronounced given its brand power, breadth of premium content and low price.

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In the U.S., Disney+ acquired about 25 million paying subscribers just two months after launching in November 2019, equivalent to around 10% SVOD subscriber market share.

“SVOD in the U.K. is a long way from saturation point,” Cooper said. “The market represents a clear opportunity for existing players as well as potential new entrants.”

Acorn TV Launching in the U.K. on April 29

Taking a page from rival streaming video service BritBox, AMC Networks’ Acorn TV is slated to launch in the United Kingdom on April 29.

Acorn TV, which owns a majority stake in the Agatha Christie literary estate, bowed in the United States in 2011. It now claims 1 million subscribers in North America.

New subs in the U.K. will get an extended 30-day free trial for a limited time. The service will also be available on a number of devices, including Roku, Fire TV, Android and Apple mobile and Apple TV — with Amazon Channels and Apple TV Channels pending.

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Acorn TV will add new content every subsequent Monday, and all series will include English subtitles. After the free trial, Acorn TV costs £4.99 ($6.18) per month or £49.99 ($61.90) per year.

“The United Kingdom has a long-standing tradition of producing first-rate dramas and mysteries, so we’re thrilled to feature so many popular, award-winning programs in one place like ITV’s ‘Foyle’s War’ and BBC’s ‘Keeping Faith,’ as well as introduce U.K. audiences to the charming, British-produced Acorn TV Original ‘Queens of Mystery,” Matthew Graham, GM at Acorn TV, said in a statement.

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For the last nine years, Acorn TV has curated and produced a diverse mix of shows from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Scandinavia with a reported focus on older female viewers.

“We continue to greatly expand our commission and co-production slate and are extremely excited for U.K. viewers to get the opportunity to see the wonderful ‘Queens of Mystery’ filmed in the beautiful countryside of Kent as well as several other productions later this year, including Irish period mystery series ‘Dead Still’ and New Zealand thriller ‘The Sounds,’ among many others,” added Catherine Mackin, managing director, Acorn Media Enterprises, the UK-based development division for Acorn TV.

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.”