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BritBox launch: industry (and public) reaction

07 Nov 2019 
BritBox launch: industry (and public) reaction

The BBC and ITV's joint streaming service BritBox has launched in the UK this week, after signing deals with Channel 4, BT and Samsung. Here, industry experts give their reaction, alongside tweets from the public.

Gregor Chalmers, Group AV Director, The Specialist Works

The long-awaited arrival of BritBox is great news for consumers and us as an industry and is very much another step in the “content is king” journey. In an increasingly fragmented and cluttered market the ability to show unique value to the customer is going to be key, whether that be via exclusive content or hardware tie ins (see Apple TV+).

By bringing on board a range of partners including C4 and BT, BritBox is ensuring it launches fully baked which might help it catch up to more established rivals.

The main hurdle will be persuading consumers who already have one or more paid for streaming service that this is worth the additional cost, or worth ditching one of their current suppliers to accommodate.

With traditional TV viewing habits changing, most prominently amongst younger viewers, the hope will be that the lure of great content can encourage subscriptions and help showcase the wonderful content PSBs create every year.

Anne Tucker, Head of Research, Mediatel Group

When Apple TV+ launched its subscription service last week it was with much fanfare, with promotional stars popping up on chat show sofas everywhere and with every bus in London seemingly emblazoned with the flagship shows.

BritBox, meanwhile, has launched in such a very British way, sneaking in quietly through the back door, almost apologetically, with no real advance notice for consumers.

It will be an interesting marketing proposition to sell a subscription to watch TV programmes to the UK population who could have effectively watched the same shows free on their respective players if they’d been quick enough.

However, the quality of UK programming from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 does deserve a price tag, but communicating that to a population used to getting content for free will be a clever task.

Kat Willox, Director of Paid Media, VaynerMedia London

While BritBox will be a small yet significant addition to the paid VOD market, there will always be a place for advertising in ITV’s offering and the wider sector. As the VOD landscape continues to become more complex with Disney and Apple also entering the market, consumers will choose which shows to watch on free-to-air and keep their on demand subscription for those that offer the most binge worthy, exclusive viewing.

Diversity in the VOD sector increases the opportunities that advertisers have to connect with their audience, which is exciting for such an impactful, highly trusted and increasingly trackable medium.

We are already seeing creative ways to personalise ads so they resonate with particular shows and audiences, and the potential for innovation in this area is really exciting.

More eyeballs and more players should keep costs low, and when programmatic buying for VOD improves, things will move really quickly.

Fergus Hay, CEO and Partner, Leagas Delaney

On the face of it this is a defensive move to aggregate British broadcasting so that they are not eliminated by American powerhouses but it also shows a smart leapfrog over the current market dynamic. The category was built by addressing an unmet consumer need - Netflix built such a valuable business by being the first to offer one consolidated platform for on demand content.

Disney, Amazon and others have since launched their own platforms thus ironically sending the market backwards into a fragmented service offering that doesn’t benefit the consumer: multiple subscriptions across multiple platforms that force platform first mentality when consumers want content first with one entry point. The launch of BritBox is a small but important step back towards consolidation in the interests of consumers.

But this is a transitional moment: expect more consolidation via over the top offerings that address the consumer need for single access.

Luke Bozeat, COO, MediaCom UK

With the launch of BritBox, Britain’s ‘traditional’ broadcasters enter the VOD market armed with an affordable price point, and a combination of exclusive new and classic shows that appeal to multiple generations. The eagerly awaited move is a clear attempt to be a competitor to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky’s Now TV, as well as incoming entrants Disney+, HBO Max and many more.

It’s a necessary shift for all four UK broadcasters that have arguably failed to reach younger audiences who consume content on phones, laptops and tablets; Ofcom recently stated that the BBC needs to do “much more” to both attract and retain younger viewers.

Increasingly, Netflix’s dominance is under threat; consumers will carefully pick which service best suits their needs, and they’ll vote with their wallets. But BritBox isn’t alone in the challenge to ensure their content isn’t a case of quantity over quality.

As senior British talent like producer Chris Sussman (whose credentials include Fleabag and Bad Education) are poached by competitors, retaining home-grown talent will be crucial to increasing their share in the streaming sphere. This will only be possible through unmissable programming like hits Killing Eve and The Bodyguard.

BritBox could well be the big break BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 need to flourish – provided they can all find the right mix of content old and new, originality and talent.

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05 Aug 2020 

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