BritBox

BritBox (stylised britbox) is a digital video subscription service created by BBC Studios and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.[3][4] The service in North America is owned by BritBox LLC, and in the UK by BritBox SVOD Ltd, joint ventures of BBC Studios and ITV plc. BritBox is focused on British television series and films, mainly featuring current and past series and films supplied from UK public service broadcasters, initially the BBC and ITV, with Channel 5 and Channel 4 (with Film4) joining later, with Comedy Central UK also providing content. It is said to feature the biggest collection of British box-sets available in one place, with more original programming for the service is set to be available on BritBox from 2020. BritBox's focus on British content, has led to the service being described as a 'Niche Streaming Service' in the U.S.[5]

BritBox
Type of businessJoint venture
Type of site
Available inEnglish
Area served
OwnerBritBox LLC (North America)[1]
BritBox SVOD Limited (UK)[2]
Founder(s)
Key people
  • Soumya Sriraman
    (President, North America)
IndustryEntertainment, Internet
Products
  • Streaming media
  • Video on demand
Services
  • Film production
  • Film distribution
  • Television production
ParentBBC Studios (10%) & ITV plc (90%)
DivisionsNorth America
UK Streaming
Websitewww.britbox.com (US/CAN)
www.britbox.co.uk (UK)
RegistrationRequired
Users650,000 subscribers (United States & Canada)
Launched
Current statusActive

BritBox's launch in the United States was announced in December 2016, with it launching on 7 March 2017.[6] It launched in Canada on 14 February 2018[7][8] and proposals for a UK launch were finalised on 27 February 2019, with the service launching in the United Kingdom on 7 November 2019.[9]

ITV owns 90% of the joint venture, with BBC Studios holding the remainder 10%, with the option of increasing their share to 25%. AMC Networks, the BBC's partner on its US cable channel BBC America, has a non-voting minority stake in the U.S. service, since they have a vested stake in RLJ Entertainment (who owns a rival British TV service Acorn TV.)[10][11] Channel 4 currently has no equity share in any of the platforms.

Some series, such as Coronation Street, have new episodes available within a day after their British premiere on the North American platform, although generally within just a few hours of its UK broadcast.

It reported a subscriber base of 250,000 within a year since launching in the US.[12] It was last reported to boast 650,000 subscribers from the North American platform.[13]

Platforms

Content between platforms

The list of available programmes differs between the Canada, UK and US platforms.[14] For example, BritBox carries Coronation Street in the US but not in Canada, where the corresponding rights have long been held by CBC Television. Meanwhile, in the UK, TV shows, especially produced by independent production companies (like the BBC show Peaky Blinders) may appear on the UK BritBox, as the BBC or ITV have the domestic broadcasting rights, but may not be available on BritBox elsewhere, due to the independent production companies giving international rights to services like Netflix. This means that depending on whether the BBC and ITV owns only the domestic rights, programmes on UK BritBox may not also be available on its American and Canadian platforms.[15] Alternatively, shows like Living the Dream may not appear on the UK BritBox, as it is broadcast by Sky and available on Sky's streaming service Now TV in the UK, but currently appears on the US BritBox.[16]

BBC and ITV content currently on other streaming services are likely to be exclusive to BritBox once the other SVOD licences expire, therefore potentially leading to harmony in programming between the platforms. However, the full details will be confirmed when both ITV and the BBC finalise their formal legal agreement.[17] Any original content produced for BritBox is set to be exclusively on BritBox.

Content co-produced between British Broadcasters and Larger SVODs, like Netflix and Prime Video, will not be available on all or any BritBox platforms.,[18] these include shows like Bodyguard in which a BritBox Spokesperson said "can't come back home", and who added that “going forward, we [BritBox] won’t licence things to Netflix and Amazon in the first place because we now have a home, a streaming service in the UK”,[19] they also added that in response to not licensing to other SVODs, since its focus is on UK-produced series, the platform would not compete to acquire the rights to US or international shows.[20]

Recently aired or current shows made for the BBC, ITV, Channel 5 and Channel 4 terrestrially in the United Kingdom, would appear on their VOD services, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5 and All 4 respectively before BritBox. These shows would then move to BritBox at a later date, then be exclusive to BritBox once the shows have expired on the terrestrial VOD,[21] which is 30 days for ITV Hub and My5, 31 days for All 4 and 12 months for BBC iPlayer.[22]

New content not made exclusively for BritBox, but for the BBC, may not be available on BritBox platforms outside the UK, due to deals struck with other SVODs such as HBO Max and Discovery.[23]

United States

Launch

BritBox's launch in the United States was announced in December 2016, it launched on 7 March 2017.[6]

Initial programming on U.S. launch

Among the shows offered upon BritBox's initial launch, were the US premieres of New Blood and Tutankhamun. In addition, other episodes of new programming available on the service include:

Title Genre Original network Available platforms Status Notes
Casualty Medical drama BBC U.S, Canada Renewed [24]
Coronation Street Soap opera ITV U.S, Canada Renewed
EastEnders Soap opera BBC U.S, Canada Renewed
Emmerdale Soap opera ITV U.S, Canada Renewed
Holby City Medical drama BBC U.S, Canada Renewed
Inside No. 9 Black comedy, Anthology series, Comedy-drama, Horror BBC U.S, Canada Renewed [25]

Programmes for 2017

In its debut year of 2017, the service also focused on much of the classic catalogue of British television such as:

*Shared with HBO Max when it launches in 2020.

In 2017, it was said there are more than 2,000 of hours of programming available on launch. A BritBox spokesperson said this number will change, as new shows are “added daily.”[26]

More than 3,600 hours of programmes are currently available, with new shows “added daily". The programming is offered without commercial interruption.[27]

Content made by/for ITV and the BBC which is currently licensed to other streaming platforms such as Netflix, would be removed once their licences expire.

On 1 August 2019, upcoming HBO Max announced its acquisition of library rights to several BBC Studios series, including the first 11 seasons of the 2005 Doctor Who revival, as well as future seasons 12-14. The Honourable Woman, Luther, Top Gear, and the British version of The Office are also some other shows in the acquisition. HBO Max will also stream future seasons of Doctor Who after their initial run on BBC America. Newer Doctor Who would be exclusive to HBO Max, with the other shows in the deal sold on a non-exclusive basis.

Canada

BritBox launched in Canada on 14 February 2018,[7] on launch the service included a free 7-day trial and in which content can be streamed on the web, on a iOS app, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast and Roku. It comes with a free 7-day introductory trial, and priced at $8.99 CAD per month on launch.[8] Users who signed up for the service in the U.S. will not be able to access their subscription in Canada.

The catalogue of content on the Canadian platform is similar to the American platform, but minor differences do exist, for example Coronation Street isn't on Canadian BritBox, due to CBC Television holding the Canadian broadcasting rights.

United Kingdom

In February 2019, it was announced that BritBox would be launched in the UK later in the year as a rival to Netflix.[28] Journalist Mark Lawson likened the proposed project to BBC Worldwide's previous failed platform, Project Kangaroo, which was expected to launch in 2008, and described it as "bizarre" and "hugely risky".[29] In March 2019, Channel 4 confirmed interest in collaborating with the BBC and ITV.[30] Currently, McMafia, Last Tango in Halifax, Les Misérables and the sitcom Gavin & Stacey have been confirmed to be available on the UK version.[30]

In July 2019, the BBC and ITV announced they had signed an agreement to launch BritBox in the UK in the last quarter of 2019.[31] The platform will launch with a monthly £5.99 cost for HD viewing and multi-screen viewing.[15]

On 20 September 2019, ITV announced they had reached a deal with Viacom for Channel 5 and Comedy Central UK content.[32] This was followed by an announcement on 27 September that Samsung TVs, Freeview Play and YouView would be the first distribution platforms [33]

In October 2019, BritBox launched its "testing phase" in the United Kingdom, in which users can sign up for a free trial to have a "snapshot of what will be there at launch".[34]

One day before UK launch, on 6 November 2019, the Guardian reported that Channel 4 is to join BritBox after the two signed a 3-year deal to provide 1000+ hours of content from All 4 "with a range of comedy, drama and non-scripted programmes from across the service, including new series, and for the first time to any streamer, an exclusive Film4 curated service featuring iconic British films".[35][36] This means for the first time, all the UK's traditional channels have managed to successfully bring together programmes on a single streaming service. Channel 4 content will be available on BritBox from Spring 2020 and Film4 content later in 2020, with recently aired content being only available on BritBox 31 days after the airing of the last episode on Channel 4.[36] Channel 4 currently has not taken an equity stake in BritBox.

BritBox launched in the UK on 7 November 2019 with a 30-day free trial and a subscription price of £5.99 per month with no minimum term contract.[37]

Other markets

BritBox currently only has platforms in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, however on 15 October 2019, BBC Studios global distribution president Paul Dempsey admitted there were more markets where the UK-skewing service could work.

Original content

In September 2017, BritBox released a reconstruction of the Doctor Who story The Wheel in Space using the surviving episodes and reconstruction using Tele-snaps.[38] In July 2018, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco made its debut, the first original drama series in which BritBox held a direct production role.[39]

More original content is set to be commissioned and produced for 2020, following the platform's UK launch, with the BBC Media Centre stating "The first new show is expected to be commissioned soon and will be available to BritBox viewers from 2020".[40] The goal is to offer exclusive content only available on BritBox, rather than BBC and ITV's UK VOD services BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. The annual budget for original programmes will be in the tens of millions of pounds according to BBC News.[15]

ITV has pledged to invest up to £65m in the joint venture over the next two years, and the BBC has said their pledge would be in the "tens of millions".[17]

Drama

Title Genre Premiere Series/episodes Status
The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco Crime mystery 25 July 2018 1 series, 8 episodes Renewed

Participating broadcasters

In addition, of containing the catalogues of BBC and ITV television, BritBox includes content from Channel 4 (including Film4), and ViacomCBS through the UK channels Channel 5 and of Comedy Central.

Other potential networks to offer content or ownership of BritBox include: NBCUniversal (owned by Comcast) and BT. Such collaboration would greatly increase BritBox's catalogue and financial resources when competing with other streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video. BT and NBCUniversal were reportedly in early talks with BritBox, but the progress of the talks have yet to be stated, with NBCUniversal launching their own streaming service, 'Peacock' in the US in 2020[41] and its parent Comcast owning Sky's UK streaming service Now TV, making collaboration with NBCUniversal unlikely. BT has since signed a partnership with BritBox in which the service will complement it own content.

Arran Tindall, Senior Vice President, Commercial & Content Distribution, Viacom International Media Networks said: “Under Viacom’s ownership we have significantly increased Channel 5’s investment in original UK content and we’re delighted to bring our popular homegrown content to an even wider audience through BritBox, alongside a selection of Comedy Central’s much-loved UK programming.” following the announcement that Viacom content of Channel 5 and Comedy Central UK would be joining the service.[42]

In the early days of BritBox, Channel 4 was reportedly in talks with BritBox for a long period, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall confirmed to RadioTimes.com that talks are "continuing" with Channel 4 and said that they will "welcome Channel 4 to BritBox".[43] On 6 November, the Guardian reported that Channel 4 is to join BritBox, with its content expected to be available on the service from early 2020.[35]

However, Channel 4 is a publisher-broadcaster, therefore required to commission UK content from the independent production companies and currently works with around 300 companies across the UK every year,[36] leading Channel 4 to potentially lack the rights to many of the shows it broadcasts. Many independent broadcasters waver these rights in order to strike more lucrative deals with larger SVODs while retaining control over their intellectual property. This would therefore potentially cause the UK platform to have differing content from the North American platform.

Content co-produced between British Broadcasters and Larger SVODs, like Netflix and Prime Video, will not be available on all or any BritBox platforms.,[18] these include shows like Bodyguard in which a BritBox Spokesperson said "can't come back home", and who added that “going forward, we [BritBox] won’t licence things to Netflix and Amazon in the first place because we now have a home, a streaming service in the UK”.[19]

The BBC, however, makes much of its content via BBC Studios, as does ITV with ITV Studios, and in some instances, for each other, leading to the rights to their programmes to be in their control.[21]

BritBox content providers
Broadcaster Content provider Date joined Content added Contract Platforms Notes Exceptions
BBC Archive, original programming Founder On launch - All Content shared with BBC iPlayer up to 12 months after airing Co-produced content with other SVODs.
ITV Archive, original programming Founder On launch - All Content shared with ITV Hub up to 30 days after airing Co-produced content with other SVODs.
Channel 4 Original programming, Film 4 original films 6 Nov 2019 Spring 2020, (Film4 later in 2020) until 2023. 3 years TBA British TV box sets (otherwise available on All 4) and British films (from Film4) only, therefore collaborations (with Netflix, etc.) are likely not included Co-produced content with other SVODs.
ViacomCBS Channel 5, Comedy Central UK 20 Sep 2019 TBA TBA British comedies from Comedy Central only Non-British Content
NBCUniversal - Unconfirmed - - - Talks didn't progress -
BT (Content) Partnership 7 Nov 2019 No content - - BritBox will become available to the millions of customers who subscribe to its pay-TV service, which broadcasts programming such as Champions League football[44] -
Endemol Shine International Distribution rights 16 Oct 2019 TBA - US, Canada [45] -
Kew Media Distribution Distribution rights 16 Oct 2019 TBA - US, Canada [45] -
Other collaborations
Collaborator Service provided Date announced Available in Notes
BT (Consumer) Products 7 Nov 2019 UK "[BT] to create a range of products and offers that feature access to BritBox for millions of customers across its brands and services", more information in coming months.
EE Exclusive mobile partner 7 Nov 2019 UK More information in coming months.

Excluded content

'Inappropriate' content

A big part of the BritBox catalogue is the extensive archives of the public service broadcasters, BritBox faces the challenge of hosting content which contains outdated stereotypes and opinions. In response to this, BritBox has announced that it would not include classic homegrown series that are deemed to be inappropriate for modern audiences.

BritBox bosses have said a range of classic shows, such as the BBC's Till Death Us Do Part and ITV's Love Thy Neighbour, will not appear on the service because of content deemed racist or otherwise unacceptable. Reemah Sakaan, the senior ITV executive responsible for launching the subscription video-on-demand service, said “We also recomply everything that goes on to BritBox [with modern TV viewing standards]. There’s also the ability to create bespoke warnings around key programming.”

Sakaan confirmed that Till Death Us Do Part, first aired on BBC1 in 1965, which features the bigoted character Alf Garnett, and ITV's 1970s series Love Thy Neighbour, a sitcom about a West Indian couple who move next door to a White British couple, will not appear on the service. It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, the BBC comedy about a military band in India during the second world war, will also be absent. Some individual episodes of some beloved shows that appear on BritBox such as BBC's Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers can be also deemed 'inappropriate' therefore eligible to be removed. However, it is understood that no Fawlty Towers episodes will be cut from the service but will run with warnings of offensive language instead.[46]

New BBC content

The sale of rights to BBC content has caused some reporters to be wary of BritBox's viability as a platform for new content, due to deals with larger SVODs to exclusively stream newer BBC content.[47] However, many BBC Studios' deals have given licences to some of its content to many other SVODs on a non-exclusive basis. With newer or co-produced series more likely to be exclusive to certain SVODs.

HBO Max

The 11 series of 2005 revival and future series 13 and 14 of Doctor Who will be exclusive to stream on HBO Max in the US, following a deal between the two, on 1 August 2019.[47] Other content from BBC Studios such as The Honourable Woman, Luther, Top Gear, and the British version of The Office would be available on HBO Max on a non-exclusive basis, meaning they would potentially be also available on BritBox.[48]

Discovery

On 1 April 2019, a 10-year content partnership was agreed between BBC Studios and Discovery, which will see Discovery become the exclusive global home of the BBC's landmark natural history programs including the Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Life franchises for SVOD. The Dynasties series, hosted by Sir David Attenborough, is included in the deal, as are future BBC-commissioned landmark series. This deal applies Worldwide except the UK, Ireland and Greater China, meaning such series may be unavailable on BritBox platforms outside the United Kingdom. Upcoming co-produced content between Discovery and BBC Studios would be exclusive to Discovery's upcoming streaming platform outside the UK.[49][50]

The Discovery deal includes around 500 hours of non-exclusive content, which will still be available on other streaming services. A BBC Studios spokesperson told TBI that the relationship with Discovery is “very significant and important but it is not 100% exclusive on all titles in all regions and is therefore able to co-exist alongside regional deals of this type”, following BBC Studios' deal to provide factual content to Greek telco OTE’s pay-TV service Cosmote TV[51].

Information

Requirements

BritBox is only available to residents of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. UK residents can watch BritBox when temporarily outside the UK but within the EU.[52] Canadian and US residents can use BritBox in both Canada and the US (with differences in show availability due to rights restrictions) but it cannot be used outside of North America (including the UK version of BritBox while in the UK).[53]

Minimal technical requirements

Operating system Version Developer Notes
Windows 7 or later Microsoft -
Android 4.4 (Kitkat) or later Google -
Mac OS OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later Apple -
iOS 9.3 or later Apple -

Supported web browsers

Supported browsers Version Developer Notes
Chrome - Google -
Firefox - Mozilla -
Opera - Opera Software -
Edge Stable Microsoft Under 2 years old
Safari Latest and previous stable major version Apple -
Android Native Google -

Compatible devices

When accessing BritBox not via a web browser

Products Developer Device type(s) Notes Platform Software Date added
iPhone Apple Smartphone, Mobile devices Labelled as 'iOS device' in Help & Support, unsure if this includes the iPod Touch All Dedicated app November 2019
iPad Apple Tablet computer Labelled as 'iOS device' in Help & Support and 'iOS tablet' in an ITV press release,[54] likely includes iPad, which now uses iPadOS All Dedicated app November 2019
Android Devices (Google)

Android phone manufacturers

including:

Samsung

Huawei

LG

Google

Sony

among others

Touchscreen mobile devices (Smartphones and Tablets) - All Dedicated app November 2019
Apple TV Apple Set-top box microconsole (TVOS) 4th Generation or later All Dedicated TV app November 2019
Samsung Tizen TV Samsung Smart TV (2016 onwards) A partnership has been confirmed with Samsung, which will see the BritBox app hosted on Samsung Tizen TVs* from launch onwards (UK).

"Samsung will be the first TV to launch the BritBox app and together, Samsung and BritBox have agreed to a co-marketing partnership that will see BritBox featured as a "Recommended App" on Samsung Smart TV's and joint marketing activity taking place in Q4 as the TV device market heads into its key sales season around Black Friday and Christmas."[36]

All Dedicated TV app November 2019
YouView Partnership of:

BT Group

TalkTalk Group

Arqiva

BBC

ITV

Channel 4

Channel 5

'hybrid' set-top box Announcement on 27 September that Samsung TVs, Freeview Play and Youview would be the first distribution platforms [33] (UK).

Used by BTTV and TalkTalk TV, as well as Sony TVs and Humax PVRs. The availability date for BritBox will vary by ISP, manufacturer and model.

UK Late 2019
Freeview Play DTV Services Ltd,

a Joint Venture of:

Arqiva

BBC

ITV plc

Channel 4

Sky

Set-top box BritBox app will be available on Freeview Play TVs from a wide range of manufacturers, including Sony, Panasonic, Vestle, LG, Digihome, JVC, Logik, Luxor, Polaroid, Techwood, Toshiba and more.[54] The availability date for BritBox will vary by manufacturer and model. UK Late 2019
Amazon Channels Feature of

Amazon Prime Video

Service The ability to subscribe to Amazon Channels is exclusive to Prime members, but you'll need to pay individual subscription fees for individual channels. BritBox is an available channel for US Prime customers.[55] Available on all Amazon Video capable devices and platforms. US Prime Video app
Roku Roku, Inc. Digital media player US
AirPlay Apple Wireless media streamer US
Chromecast Google Digital media player US

More connected TV platforms & devices to be added in 2020 for UK platform.

References

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  2. https://www.britbox.co.uk/privacy
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  4. "BritBox". Britbox.com. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  5. Peterson, Tim (24 October 2019). "How niche streaming services thrive in the land of giants". Digiday. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  6. "BBC Worldwide, ITV SVOD Venture BritBox Launches With $6.99 Monthly Price". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  7. "BritBox Launches in Canada". Press Centre. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  8. "BBC's BritBox Launches in Canada: British TV Streaming at $8.99/Month". iPhone in Canada Blog. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
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  12. "BritBox passes 250,000 subscribers". Informitv.com. 28 February 2018. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  13. BritBox set for launch before end of 2019 Choose LTD 23 July 2019
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  16. Will the BBC and ITV's BritBox be a hit or a flop? BBC News 27 February 2019
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  19. "The 'vast majority' of British shows will be removed from Netflix within the next year". The Independent. 7 November 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
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  29. "BritBox: the bizarre Netflix rival that will surely bomb". The Guardian. 27 February 2019.
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  31. Full Stream Ahead for BritBox in UK as ITV & BBC Sign Agreement ITV 19 July 2019
  32. "Channel 5 and Comedy Central join BritBox line-up".
  33. "BritBox confirms first wave of distribution partners".
  34. Carr, Flora (15 October 2019). "Britbox releases Beta version for users to sign up to 30 day free trial". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  35. editor, Jim Waterson Media (6 November 2019). "Channel 4 to join new UK streaming platform BritBox". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
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  37. "BritBox: UK networks' plan to tackle Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV+". The Guardian. 7 November 2019.
  38. Rodriguez, Ashley (21 July 2017). "The "Doctor Who" fans saving the episodes once thought lost to the mists of time and space". Quartz. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  39. White, Peter (4 June 2018). "'The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco': BritBox Offers First Glimpse Of Its First Original, Set To Launch In July". Deadline Hollywood.
  40. Full stream ahead for BritBox in UK as ITV and BBC sign agreement BBC Media Centre 19 July 2019
  41. What We Know About NBCUniversal’s Future Streaming Service Variety 15 January 2019
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