ITV, BBC Set Price and Fourth-Quarter Launch for Streaming Service BritBox in U.K.

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ITV CEO Carolyn McCall

ITV will initially control 90 percent of the venture.

ITV and the BBC on Friday said they have finalized an agreement to launch the streaming service BritBox in the U.K. in the fourth quarter and unveiled details of its pricing and ownership structure.

BritBox is already available in the U.S. and Canada, and ITV and the BBC earlier this year announced plans for a U.K. launch pending a formal agreement, which has now been reached along with operating and other details.

BritBox in Britain will be priced at £5.99 ($7.50) per month in HD, which the partners said "is less than other streaming services," and will be available "across multiple screens and devices."

ITV will control the venture with a 90 percent stake, compared with the BBC's 10 percent, and be able to appoint a majority of the BritBox board. "BritBox will be an ITV-controlled venture, but as a founding partner, the BBC will contribute to the development of the core purposes and strategic direction of the venture," the partners said. The BBC has an option to acquire additional shares over time up to a 25 percent stake, and ITV can bring additional investors on board. 

Channel 4 and Viacom-owned Channel 5 have been mentioned as possible content partners for the venture, along with potential technology firms as other potential investor.

BritBox will have its own management team, led by Reemah Sakaan, group director ITV SVOD, responsible for making editorial decisions about the service's content while 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.

BritBox will feature current shows soon after they air on ITV and BBC, including Love Island and Gentleman Jack, as well as iconic series such as Gavin & StaceyVictoriaHappy ValleyBroadchurchLes Miserables and The Office, which will be on the service at launch or shortly thereafter when licenses with other streamers end, the partners said.

ITV and the BBC reiterated that BritBox will also feature original content from British production companies, with the first show expected to be commissioned soon and made available in 2020.  

"BritBox will tap into the demand for a new British streaming service, and the innovative new service will have thousands of hours of the nation’s favorite content from ITV and the BBC (as well as from other British broadcasters and production companies) across a variety of genres, including critically acclaimed drama, crime thrillers, classic comedy and powerful documentaries alongside reality hits and entertainment," the partners said, promising "hundreds of hours of new ITV and BBC content every year." Many of these shows will be exclusive to U.K. viewers through BritBox, "and the flow of programs will ensure that the content on BritBox is refreshed every week," they added.

The BBC and ITV called the deal for BritBox a "bold, new step." ITV CEO Carolyn McCall called it "a milestone moment," saying: "ITV and BBC have made, and continue to make, the programs that both reflect and shape British culture and creativity. We now look forward to working together to launch the largest collection of British boxsets ever — bringing the very best in past, present and future British programming and award-winning content to viewers all in one place."

Added BBC director general Tony Hall: "We have a world beating TV industry with outstanding content. The BBC and ITV are at the center of that. Together, we have been responsible for delivering the majority of 'must see' moments on British TV over the last decade. That “must see” content will now be on BritBox."

Research firm FutureSource estimates that there are currently around 21 million SVOD subscriptions in the U.K. "BritBox would need less than 1 million subscribers to become the number 4 player behind market leaders Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and [Sky's] Now TV," said David Sidebottom, principal analyst at FutureSource.

He said BritBox sees "the U.K.’s two leading domestic broadcasters collaborating to provide as strong a consumer offering as possible to ultimately complement Netflix, other SVOD services and their existing broadcast VOD/catch-up TV services."

Sidebottom also sees one key value proposition: "An obvious differentiator is the vast content libraries both the BBC and ITV can make available on the service. But with BBC’s decision to extend content availability on [VOD service] iPlayer for up to 12 months after original broadcast, it will mean it can’t rely on newer BBC content to bolster BritBox’s proposition."