BritBox: The Future of TV or a Certain Flop?

Looking the Britbox on the tv at home

In February, it was announced that the UK’s two oldest broadcasting rivals, the BBC and ITV, were planning to join forces and launch a new, Netflix-esque streaming service called BritBox. Now that the initial surprise (and there was a lot of it!) has died down, everyone has started to wonder what the development might mean for them.

Everyone with a stake in the UK television market, from programme-makers and actors to TV advertising agencies and viewers, could be impacted by BritBox – unless, of course, the project never even gets off the ground. So, what are the chances of that happening? And why are those involved so adamant it’ll work? Here, we will address some of the burning questions.

What is BritBox and why is it being launched?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware of the extraordinary rise of Netflix, the video-on-demand service founded in 2012 that now boasts almost 140 million subscribers around the world. Simply put, Netflix’s incredible growth, combined with that of rivals such as Amazon Prime, can no longer be ignored by the UK’s big traditional broadcasters – make no mistake, the rise of the streamers and the changing habits of young viewers pose a serious threat to TV as we know it.

BritBox is a risky solution, but the BBC and ITV will argue they had to do something to increase their relevance in a consumer landscape that would have been totally unrecognisable just 10 years ago. The idea is that the platform will bring together ‘must-watch’ boxsets (think Bodyguard and Broadchurch) and classic series, as well as original, exclusively-commissioned programmes in one, millennial-friendly space.

It’s also important to note that BritBox already exists in the U.S. – and it’s doing well. Launched stateside in 2017, the on-demand service has already signed up more than half a million users, significantly exceeding expectations there. This mix of factors seems to have persuaded the powers-that-be at Britain’s biggest channels to take the plunge and roll it out at home. But will it last?

Is BritBox doomed already?

To say that media experts have reacted to BritBox with scepticism would be a bit of an understatement, and commentators from a wide variety of outlets have given all sorts of reasons why they think the platform is doomed to fail.

Firstly, there’s the all-important issue of money. Although the BBC hasn’t yet confirmed how much they’ll be spending on the venture, ITV has already said it’ll shell out an initial £25million this year. This may sound impressive at first but, when you consider that Netflix apparently threw £9billion at programme-makers in 2018 alone, the gulf in spending power that exists between traditional broadcasters and the new guard of digital distributors is all too clear. As Tom Harrington, from the research firm Enders Analysis, noted: “£25m – that’s three episodes of The Crown”.

Then, there’s the question of whether potential subscribers will be happy to shell out for yet another monthly service, especially as some have already pointed out that they’ll still have to pay their license fees. It’s thought that BritBox will cost around £5 per month – will it take off when Netflix subscribers (their target audience) are already paying up to £10?

The jury is most definitely still out on the appeal of BritBox, and whether it will have enough ‘unmissable’ content to convince viewers to part with their hard-earned cash. Whatever the answer, though, we’re going to find out soon; the service is expected to launch before the year is out.

Will I be able to advertise on BritBox?

The short answer is ‘no’. The response of ITV’s chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, was quite conclusive when she was asked about whether BritBox would feature adverts: “It will be completely ad-free”. Well, that answers that!

The thinking behind this model may partly be down to the BBC’s involvement (although ads have long featured on services run by the corporation’s commercial arm, such as BBC Good Food). Once again, though, those behind BritBox are taking their lead from Netflix – the world’s favourite video-on-demand provider relies entirely on subscriptions for its profits, and this is the ambitious approach that will also be followed here.

However, if you’re a business owner who is used to running TV ads and is worrying about what the shift to streaming might mean for your company, there’s no need to. It can’t be denied that the nation’s viewers (and young people in particular) are starting to change the way they watch programmes but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that traditional television remains stubbornly popular amongst all age groups. A quick look at the viewing figures for 2018’s most popular shows demonstrates how TV still has the power to draw huge audiences, with a range of genres spanning various target demographics performing well. Here’s a quick breakdown of how many people tuned in to see the most-watched episodes of last year’s top series:

Bodyguard – 14.34m

I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here – 13.35m

Strictly Come Dancing – 12.86m

Britain’s Got Talent – 10.75m

The even better news is that there are now so many sophisticated tools out there to help the experts (including us, of course!) plan their clients’ campaigns that it has become easier than ever to target ads towards consumers most likely to engage with certain brands. Whether you just want to boost awareness of your company or need to increase sales quickly, we know all the tricks of the trade to help make this happen. Give us a call today and we’ll happily share all our TV advertising knowledge and experience with you – or we can just get straight down to business and start preparing your next campaign!