NETFLIX HAS a new rival in town, and it's British.
The BBC and ITV have announced that they are to bring their subscription streaming service BritBox to the UK in proposals submitted to Ofcom this week.
BritBox is already available in the US, where it has around half a million subscribers, a fraction of its bigger rivals Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video.
It will offer a library of programming from both BBC and ITV, with other broadcasters encouraged to join the party too.
Some have questioned whether it's fair for UK viewers to have to pay again for programmes funded by the TV licence fee, but technically, the service will be co-owned by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the company, putting on the same footing as buying a BBC DVD or watching Dave.
It's not clear yet if the two companies will remove their libraries currently offered on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Disney, which is also launching a streaming service during 2019, has already begun moving their content from rival services.
There still hang a number of questions. Pricing and content are a long way from decided, though $6.99/m in the US is very competitive and could turn a few heads.
The future of ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer seems assured though this is likely to skew those services away from offering older box sets in favour of catch-up content.
Channel 4 seems unlikely to join, as its All4 service has matured on its own and offers an ad-funded library of box sets, flanked by ‘Walter Presents' foreign language shows and hit US comedies like 30 Rock and Community.
Then there's the question of whether Ofcom will even approve the venture - the first time that a joint streaming service was mooted back in the early noughties, under the name Project Kangaroo, it was shot down by regulations and a lack of agreement between the parties on how it should operate.
A lot has changed since those early days of streaming, however, and we'll be keeping an eye on how BritBox is rolled out and how it performs against its giant cousins. μ
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