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.

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 Going Global With Pending Service in Australia

BritBox, the British-themed content subscription streaming video service launched in the United States in 2017 by ITV and BBC Studios, is planning to expand worldwide. The service is following in the footsteps of rival Netflix bowing in Canada (2018), the United Kingdom (2019) and soon in Australia. BritBox has more than 1 million subscribers in North America, par with competitor AMC Networks’ Acorn TV.

“BritBox has very quickly found a place in viewers’ hearts and we know there is further appetite amongst international audiences who love great British content,” Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Studios, said in a statement. “We are actively appraising new markets to introduce the service and are very excited about the imminent launch in Australia.”

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BritBox U.K. has distribution deals in place for TV shows “Shetland” and “Vera,” offering subs new episodes day and date, in addition to soap operas “Coronation Street” and “EastEnders” the day after their initial broadcast. Original series include “The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco,” “The Mallorca Files,” “There She Goes” and “The Bay.”

“This international expansion plan will firmly establish BritBox as a global premium brand in a rapidly growing sector,” said Carolyn McCall, ITV CEO. “Offering subscribers the best and biggest collection of British content has enabled BritBox to rapidly grow in our existing countries and as streaming continues to expand worldwide this roll out will give our distinctive streaming business truly international scale.”

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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.”

 

BritBox Now Available on Amazon Fire TV

After numerous delays, British-centric subscription streaming service BritBox U.K. is now available on Amazon Fire TV.

The service, launched in the United States by the BBC and ITV in 2017 in response to AMC Networks’ Acorn TV and Netflix, has more than 650,000 subscribers in North America. It bowed in the U.K. last November.

BritBox is also available on Apple TV, Roku (in the U.S.), Google Chromecast, and Smart TVs from Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, JVC, Hitachi and Roku, among others.

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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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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.

 

Netflix Rival BritBox Launching Q4 in the U.K.

As expected, British television rivals ITV and the BBC have signed an agreement to launch subscription streaming video service BritBox in the U.K. in the fourth quarter priced at £5.99 ($7.51) per month in HD and available across multiple screens and devices.

Originally launched in North America in 2017 featuring British-centric programming from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, BritBox ($6.99) recently surpassed 650,000 subscribers.

Independent research carried out by Differentology shows that desire for British content is high – with 44% of U.K. respondents claiming they are likely to subscribe to a new SVOD service featuring British content. About 54% of respondents with a Netflix subscription claimed they would be likely to subscribe to BritBox.

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BARB data shows that more U.K. households are taking multiple SVOD subscriptions – while the annual growth in homes without any SVOD service is 20%, growth in homes with multiple services is 34%, with 5 million homes now having more than one subscription.

BritBox U.K. will initially stream TV shows broadcast on ITV and BBC, including reality series “Love Island,” “Famalam,” “Cleaning Up” and “Gentleman Jack” (available in the U.S. on HBO), in addition to catalog shows such as “Gavin & Stacey,” “Victoria,” “Happy Valley,” “Broadchurch,” “Les Miserables,” “The Office” and “Benidorm,” which will be on the service at launch or come onto the service shortly after licenses with other SVODs end.

BritBox is also commissioning original content from British production companies specifically created for the service. The first new show is expected to available in 2020.

“The agreement to launch BritBox is a milestone moment,” Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said in a statement. “SVOD is increasingly popular with consumers who love being able to watch what they want when they want to watch it. They are also happy to pay for this ease of access to quality content and so BritBox is tapping into this, and a new revenue stream for U.K. public service broadcasters.”

While McCall denies BritBox is targeting Netflix, which has about 10 million subscribers in the U.K. and features original content from the BBC and ITV, among other sources, BBC Director General Tony Hall is singing a different tune.

Hall said the two media companies contribute to “a world beating TV industry.”

“Together, we have been responsible for delivering the majority of ‘must see’ moments on British TV over the last decade,” he said. “That ‘must see’ content will now be on BritBox.”

ITV initially holds 90% stake and the BBC holds 10% in the joint venture. The BBC has an option to acquire additional shares over time up to 25% in total and ITV will have the ability to bring additional investors on board.
ITV will be able to appoint a majority of the BritBox board while the BBC’s equity stake provides it with board representation from the outset.

BritBox will be led by Reemah Sakaan, group director ITV SVOD, responsible for making editorial decisions about the service content while also ensuring alignment with ITV’s and the BBC’s branding and editorial policies. Sakaan reports to Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, who has overall commissioning responsibility for BritBox.