ITV Sells Its 50% Stake in BritBox Streamer to BBC Studios For $322 Million

U.K. television producer-distributor ITV March 1 announced that it has sold its entire 50% ownership stake in subscription streaming service BritBox International to its joint venture partner BBC Studios for a cash consideration of £255 million ($322 million). The transaction will provide net proceeds, including loan repayments and accrued dividends and after tax, of around £235 million ($297 million).

ITV and BBC Studios launched the British-themed content subscription streaming service in the United States in February 2018, followed by a U.K. service in November 2019. BritBox International now operates in nine countries with more than 2.6 million combined subscribers.

The sale reflects ITV’s renewed strategy of focusing on its U.K.-based ad-supported streaming service ITVX and growing its global studios division.  The ITV board of directors intends to return the entire net sale proceeds to shareholders through a share buyback, which it expects to launch imminently on March 7.

“This is an important acquisition for us. We are taking full ownership of a successful, growing service we know well and that fits with our stated ambition to double the size of our business,” Tom Fussell, CEO of BBC Studios, said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, ITV Studios will continue to receive an ongoing revenue stream from BritBox International for the use of ITV content under new extended licensing agreements. BritBox U.K. will also feature BBC content as part of separate long-term license agreements.

“I would like to thank the BritBox International team for making the company such a success and particularly CEO Reemah Sakaan for her leadership, drive and vision,” ITV CEO Carolyn McCall said in a statement.

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FilmRise Expands Content Agreement With ITV Studios

FilmRise, the New York City-based film, television studio and streaming network, and ITV Studios have expanded their content relationship with more than 5,000 hours of programming containing 3,000 hours of newly added content of British dramas both classic and new — many never before made available to stream in the United States.

The deal includes a renewal of Gordan Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” franchises as well as an array of unscripted/factual content across the home and garden, lifestyle, true crime, competition, and reality genres — with many key titles to be exclusively distributed on AVOD and FAST by FilmRise in the United States and Canada.

The deal was announced jointly Jan. 16 at NATPE by Max Einhorn, SVP acquisitions and co-productions, FilmRise, and Rob Kaplan, SVP of sales, U.S. and global accounts, global partnerships, ITV Studios.

“Prime Suspect”

Among the new programming being added to the deal are seasons one through five of the comedy “Brassic” and seasons one and two of  “Romulus,” the epic tale of the origin of Rome set in 8th Century B.C. The complete series of “Prime Suspect” starring Dame Helen Mirren, as well as all five seasons of the iconic series “Upstairs, Downstairs,” are also on the list, in addition to four seasons of “Nanny 911,” the reality series where British nannies were brought into homes with troublesome tots, and 12 seasons of “The Hotel Inspector,” where celebrated hotelier and businesswoman Alex Polizzi visits struggling British hotels to try and turn fortunes around by giving advice and suggestions to the owner.

“Upstairs, Downstairs”

FilmRise began its relationship with ITV Studios during its early years and with the series “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” across AVOD and FAST. Currently FilmRise manages six FAST Channels for “Hell’s Kitchen” in North America and seven FAST Channels for “Hell’s Kitchen”/”Kitchen Nightmares” in the United States.

“With the expansion of this deal with ITV Studios, we are positioning ourselves as a key player to further distribute exceptional British drama and non-scripted content to the U.S. FAST and AVOD audience,” Einhorn said in a statement. “We are very proud that ITV Studios recognizes our ongoing dedication to share their content with our wide customer base.”

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“FilmRise has done an impeccable job of reaching audiences and successfully monetizing many of ITV Studios’ most popular titles in the rapidly evolving digital content ecosystem,” Kaplan said in a statement. “They continue to provide viewers with a myriad of access points to easily discover and enjoy our programs for free. We are thrilled to meaningfully expand our long-standing collaboration with such a respected partner.”

‘CBS Presents Harry: The Interview’ to Stream on Paramount+

CBS Presents Harry: The Interview, a one-hour prime-time special featuring the first United States telecast of the Duke of Sussex’s extensive sit-down with ITV journalist Tom Bradby, will air Jan. 14  from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET/PT, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+ in the United States, with the extended version set exclusively for Paramount+ immediately following the West Coast broadcast.

Paramount+ Premium subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service as well as on-demand. Essential tier subscribers will have access to on-demand the day after the episode airs.

The original ITV interview aired in the United Kingdom on Jan. 8.

The international interview features a lively and revealing conversation between Bradby and Prince Harry, who have known each other for 20 years. Prince Harry reads critical passages from his new book, Spare, and shares deep insight into his personal relationships, his marriage to Meghan Markle, the death of his mother Princess Diana, and his feelings for his father King Charles and brother Prince William.

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Prince Harry tells Bradby that a lot of people, after watching the interview and reading the book, will wonder how he could ever forgive his family.

“People have already said that to me,” Prince Harry says. “And I said, forgiveness is 100% a possibility because I would like to get my father back. I would like to have my brother back. At the moment, I don’t recognize them, as much as they probably don’t recognize me.”

Harry: The Interview is produced by ITN Productions. See It Now Studios, a unit of Paramount Global, prepared the interview for the U.S. premiere.

BritBox Co-Owner Launching New Ad-Supported Streaming Service With U.S. Movies

ITV, which co-owns SVOD platform BritBox with BBC Studios, Nov. 7 announced it is launching branded ad-supported free streaming platform ITVX on Dec. 8. The new service replaces ITV Hub as the online home of all ITV content in the U.K.

At launch, users will have access to more than 10,000 hours of content in high definition, and ITVX will also drop new and exclusive programs every week of the year, including documentaries, cult classics and hundreds of movies.

Films available at launch will include the “Back to the Future” trilogy, the “Despicable Me” trilogy, Wonder Woman and many more. The full “Fast and Furious” series of films will be launched in 2023.

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All ITV’s channels will be available to livestream through ITVX, as well as additional free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels, and a dedicated news section.

“ITVX is powered by a significant, streaming-first commissioning budget, and an integrated technology and data platform providing a more personalized viewing and advertising experience, that will continue to evolve in 2023 and beyond,” Carolyn McCall said in a statement.

ITVX’s initial original content includes six-part cold war drama, “A Spy Among Friends,” starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce, new teen drama Tell Me Everything, powerful period drama The Confessions of Frannie Langton, starring Karla-Simone Spence, Sophie Cookson and Patrick Martins, and Plebs: Soldiers of Rome, the feature-length finale to the popular comedy series.

Ex-Hulu Executive Robert Shildhouse to Lead Business Growth for BritBox in North America

BritBox International on Oct. 24 announced the appointment of Robert Schildhouse as EVP of North America and GM of Group Marketing Services.

Robert Schildhouse

He will spearhead the subscription streaming service’s business growth in the United States and Canada, and lead its centralized global marketing services. Schildhouse will report to Reemah Sakaan, CEO of BritBox International, and will be based in New York.

His appointment comes after a year of accelerated global growth for the brand, a BBC Studios and ITV joint venture that specializes in British programming. BritBox recently launched in Nordic markets, expanding on its existing presence across the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Schildhouse will lead business development, commercial relationships, programming and performance marketing for BritBox North America. He will also oversee central marketing services, across Creative Studio, Media Buying, CRM and customer services, led by BritBox International executive Nada Arnot, SVP of marketing for North America and Group Marketing Services.

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Schildhouse joined Hulu prior to its launch in 2008, progressing to become the leader of Hulu’s Content Acquisition organization. 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. Schildhouse later became EVP of business development, where he was responsible for authoring strategy to expand CBS’s global footprint. He began his career at GE Capital, where he was a graduate of GE’s financial management program.

“As we continue to drive the growth and strong momentum of our North America business, Robert will bring his proven expertise in leading innovative streaming and content businesses to our organization,” Sakaan  said. “It’s an exciting and pivotal time for BritBox, and I’m thrilled to be adding him to our passionate team, bringing the best of British to North America.”

BritBox International recently launched a robust global commissioning and co-production slate of original dramas and fan-favorite series, including “Stonehouse,” “Beyond Paradise,” “Three Little Birds,” “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” and “Archie.” BritBox North America also recently premiered the acclaimed original series “Sherwood,” with Karen Pirie.

Whip Media Inks Deal With ITV Studios for Content Performance Tracking

Whip Media, a software platform and data provider to entertainment organizations, announced that ITV Studios,  an international content creator, producer and distributor, will utilize Whip Media’s platform for performance tracking of its entertainment content, including the company’s growing FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels.

ITV Studios, a part of ITV plc, which includes the U.K.’s largest commercial broadcaster, features more than 60 TV production labels, producing such hits as “Love Island,” “I’m a Celebrity” and “Come Dine With Me.” The company’s global footprint spans markets including the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, France, Germany, the Nordics, Italy and the Netherlands, and its global distribution business sells its catalog of 90,000-plus hours of programming to broadcasters and platforms around the world.

The growth of ITV Studios’ global distribution partners — especially in the evolving FAST/AVOD market — created the need for better content performance tracking and distribution analytics, allowing ITV Studios to keep pace with the high volume of reporting internally and from its partners, according to a Whip release. Whip Media’s solution consolidates and centralizes distributors’ partner data across global platforms while also automating accounting processes to manage and recognize revenue.

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“Our team couldn’t be more excited to help ITV Studios — one of the premier production and distribution companies in the world — track the performance of its series across a rapidly growing number of platforms,” Paul Hastings, Whip Media’s SVP of global sales, said in a statement. “As content distribution continues to become increasingly stratified and difficult to manage, it’s imperative for entertainment companies to streamline how their data is analyzed and processed. Whip Media’s platform will help ITV Studios accomplish that goal — allowing it to focus on what it does best, which is churning out great series for millions of viewers to enjoy.” 

“We’re very pleased to be partnering with the Whip Media team and utilize their expertise in this space. The Performance Track tool and the data it will unlock is a key component of ITV Studios overall strategy to expand and grow our digital business across AVOD, FAST and other digital platforms and deepen our understanding of how our content engages with viewers across multiple platforms and territories,” Graham Haigh, EVP of business development and digital distribution at ITV Studios, said in a statement.

While the FAST market is rapidly expanding, content programmers do not currently have visibility into title-level performance across multiple digital platforms, creating data inefficiencies for FAST networks that need this data to make strategic content acquisition and programming decisions. Whip Media leverages its industry-leading data aggregation capabilities to solve this problem by mapping a FAST network’s performance data to both its linear schedules and internal metadata, creating an automated performance tracking solution for digital linear networks. Designed to handle scale and improve performance visibility, Whip Media’s solution will help ITV Studios make more informed programming decisions, according to Whip.

NFL, ITV Announce Three-Year Partnership, Includes On-Demand Streaming Access to Super Bowl LVII

The National Football League Aug. 17 announced a new three-year partnership with British television operator and content producer ITV. The deal includes free-to-air television and on-demand streaming rights to select NFL programming, including Super Bowl LVII, in the U.K. and Ireland.

The programs will be co-hosted by Laura Woods, U.K. Sports Presenter of the Year, along with game analysts Osi Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants, and Jason Bell, formerly with the Dallas Cowboys, when ITV kicks off its coverage on Sept. 9 with the first in a series of hour-long weekly shows, airing at 11:30 p.m. on ITV.

The 2022 NFL season kicks off the previous night when the defending Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams take on the Buffalo Bills.

ITV will air Super Bowl LVII, live from Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 12, 2023, as well as two of the season’s three London Games. The New York Giants face the Green Bay Packers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Oct. 9, and the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Denver Broncos at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 30.

The new partnership marks the NFL’s return to ITV for the first time since the network aired the last of its three consecutive Super Bowls in 2007. The NFL has recently aired games on the BBC.

“This deal will bring to ITV viewers the very best of the NFL each week in our highlights shows throughout the season as well as key live games,” Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said in a statement.

Henry Hodgson, managing director, NFL U.K., said the time was right to movie to a new media partnership following seven years of NFL coverage on BBC TV.

“This is another significant milestone for the NFL in [the U.K.],” Hodgson said. “With the momentum behind fan growth, more London games, successful British players in the NFL, the launch of an Academy and a charitable foundation — this announcement is another sign of our ambition to grow and develop the sport in the U.K.”

The weekly ITV show will focus on providing NFL fans, new and old, with an update on everything they need to know heading into each weekend of NFL games. The show will also be repeated Saturdays on ITV4 and will be available on ITV Hub.

ITV’s NFL programming will also be broadcast on STV in Scotland and Virgin Media in Ireland, while all programming will be also available on VOD on ITV Hub, ITV Hub+, STV Player and VM Player.

ITV is co-owner of the BritBox subscription streaming platform.

BritBox Unveils New Content Productions With ITV and BBC Studios

BritBox International, which operates British-themed subscription streaming video services in the U.S. and worldwide, June 29 announced new programing productions with platform owners BBC Studios and ITV.

Programs include new the spin-off series “Beyond Paradise,” from Red Planet Pictures, which created the hugely popular criminal series, “Death in Paradise.” The new series takes a look at what happened to DI Humphrey Goodman after he left the sunny shores of Saint Marie in the Bahamas and returned to the U.K.

The series will be available in all BritBox International markets outside of Australia.

“As we continue to grow globally, our new on-the-ground team is embedded into the fabric of British creativity, enabling seamless and passionate storytelling partnerships for U.K. producers,” Reemah Sakaan, CEO of BritBox International, said in a statement.

In “Crime” season two, Dougray Scott returns as troubled detective Ray Lennox. Adapted from best-selling Scottish author Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and screenwriting partner Dean Cavanagh, the six-part drama will be exclusive to ITV’s new ad-supported free streaming service, ahead of a linear transmission on ITV’s main channel, and followed by BritBox.

Detective Lennox is now settled back into life with Edinburgh’s Serious Crimes team, having fully recovered from his breakdown after the toll of his last investigation. And when a high-ranking member of the establishment is found dead in a Leith warehouse, Lennox is thrown into a case which quickly reveals itself as the work of a serial killer. As victims mount up, Lennox realizes these are anything but random.

“Three Little Birds,” written by Sir Lenny Henry, is inspired by the stories of Henry’s mother, Winifred. On many occasions as he grew up, she would talk about leaving Jamaica in the late 1950’s for Great Britain, which became their lifelong family home.

The life-affirming drama explores untold stories of love, sisterhood, parenting and friendship, and the joys, laughter and struggles of making a new life in the Mother Country. The series follows three young women: the fiery sisters Leah and Chantrelle and their God-fearing acquaintance, Hosanna, as they travel to Britain to build a new life.

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“Working with the very best U.K. producers, we have curated a set of shows we are confident will excite our existing subscribers, while attracting new audiences to our platforms,” said Diederick Santer, CCO of BritBox International.

Other series include reality show “Make it at Market,” which  is filmed in the heart of Leicestershire’s countryside in the secret grounds of Stoneywell, and sees Dom Chinea (The Repair Shop) work with a team of business and craft experts to help a group of budding entrepreneurs make a living from their crafting hobby.

Finally, “Cleaner” season two again comprises episodes featuring a combination of established and emerging comedy talents.

“Karen Pirie” showcases Lauren Lyle (“Outlander”) in the title role in the new ITV drama series from the production company behind “Line of Duty” and “Bodyguard,” among others. DS Karen Pirie is a young and fearless Scottish investigator with a quick wit and tenacious desire for the truth.

The series also stars Chris Jenks (Sex Education) as Jason ‘Mint’ Murray and Zach Wyatt (“Blithe Spirit”) as DS Phil Parhatka.

The series is based on Val McDermid’s first Karen Pirie novel, “The Distant Echo,” which finds the Pirie tasked with reopening an unsolved murder that has been the subject of a provocative true crime podcast.

ITV: BritBox International SVOD Subs to Reach 10M to 12M by 2030

BritBox International, the British-themed subscription streaming VOD platform launched in the United States in 2017, is projected to reach 10 million to 12 million subscribers by 2030, according to a regulatory filing by platform co-owner ITV. The media company also announced it would buy out co-owner BBC’s 10% stake in BritBox U.K., which launched separately in 2019.

ITV CEO Carolyn McCall

BritBox International is also available in Canada, Australia and South Africa, with plans to launch service in the Nordics later this year. The platform, including BritBox U.K. and ITV Hub+, ended 2021 with 3.6 million global subscriptions, up more than 38% from 2.6 million at the end of 2020.

BritBox U.K. tallied 733,000 subscriptions, up more than 45% from 505,000 subs year-over-year with a pipeline of eight scripted titles in the first half of 2022, including “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”

BritBox International is now in four countries and delivered strong growth with more than 2.4 million subscriptions, up more than 50% from 1.6 million.

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“With the success of ITV Hub+ and BritBox, we see an opportunity to at least double our digital revenue to £750 million [$1 billion] by 2026,” CEO Carolyn McCall said in a statement.

The media company says the revenue increase will be fueled in part by the launch of ITVX, which it claims will be the first integrated AVOD/SVOD streaming platform in the United Kingdom.

“It will be a seamless viewer experience with a digital first content and windowing strategy and significant content investment providing weekly premieres and over 15,000 hours of content at launch,” McCall said. “This will enable ITV to double streaming viewing, double monthly active users, double subscribers and deliver valuable addressable advertising inventory at scale.”

BritBox Exclusively Streaming Sitcom ‘Kate & Koji’ in U.S.

BritBox, the $6.99 monthly subscription streaming service from BBC Studios and ITV, March 11 announced it would exclusively stream in North America ITV sitcomKate & Koji.”  Starring award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn (Vera, Secrets & Lies) and Jimmy Akingbola (“Arrow,” “Ted Lasso”), the series follows the unlikely friendship between Kate, a working-class woman who runs an old fashioned seaside cafe, and Koji, an African asylum seeker.

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Although from very different worlds, they are similar in ways they do not recognize, including a dogged determination to never back down. The six-part show was filmed in the picturesque coastal town of Herne Bay in Kent, South East England. It premieres April 13 on BritBox.

BritBox, which launched in the U.S. in 2017 as competition to AMC Network’s Acorn TV and Netflix, is available on Roku,  Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV 4th Gen, Samsung, LG and all iOS and Android devices, AirPlay, Chromecast and online.  

BritBox, which has more than 1.2 million subscribers in North America, and 500,000 in the U.K., is also available on Amazon Channels for Prime members and on Apple TV Channels on supported devices.