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ITV and BBC are launching a UK Netflix rival called 'BritBox'

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
ITV and BBC’s BritBox service. Photo: Screenshot

ITV (ITV.L) and the BBC have announced plans to launch a new subscription online streaming service to rival Netflix, dubbed “BritBox.”

Both broadcasters released statements on Wednesday saying that they are in the final stages of talks to establish a strategic partnership on the new service. The platform, set to launch in the UK later this year, will host classic British boxsets and series, as well as new commissions created specially for the service.

The exact programmes on BritBox have not been announced but the website for the new service features images from ITV programmes Young Victoria and Broadchurch alongside BBC shows McMafia and Les Misérables.

The price of a BritBox subscription in the UK has not yet been set but both parties said it would be “competitive.”

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.”

BBC Director General Tony Hall said in a statement: “I am delighted that the BBC and ITV are working together on something truly special – BritBox.

“A new streaming service delivering the best home grown content to the public who love it best. The service will have everything from old favourites to recent shows and brand new commissions. It’s an exciting time for the viewing public.”

The partnership between two of the UK’s biggest broadcasters comes at a time of intense competition and change in the TV industry. US giants such as Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN) are helping to drive rapid changes in how people consumer shows while also signing up millions of customers around the world.

ITV continues to grow its pay-per-view offering and its studios business, which sells content to other channels, while a new partnership with the BBC should help it adapt to the brave new world of on-demand streaming led by Netflix and Amazon,” George Salmon, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said in an email.

“The BritBox service has been successful in the US, and ITV is hopeful it can replicate this success at home.”

The BBC and ITV already operate Britbox in North America, where the service has half a million subscribers.

ITV will invest £25m into BritBox this year and expects to spend £40m on the project next year.

We anticipate that other partners will be added to BritBox and we will both speak to regulators and the wider industry about our proposals,” McCall said in a separate statement in ITV’s full-year results on Wednesday.

ITV’s full-year results showed revenue up 3% to £3.7bn in 2018 and earnings down by 4% to £810m. The broadcaster, which makes programmes such as Love Island and the Bodyguard, warned that it was seeing weakness in the advertising market in the UK.

“The economic and political headwinds for the UK will have an effect on the advertising market and while ITV is increasingly diversified, we remain sensitive to this,” McCall said.

Salmon said: “Not only is the way we watch TV changing, the rise of Google and Facebook means the way advertisers promote their products is too. All the while, a tighter economic background brings more pressure.”

ITV shares were down by 1.9%.