Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon has revealed that the UK broadcaster is having “positive and constructive discussions” about partnering with the BBC and ITV on their new UK streaming service, BritBox.
Speaking at Deloitte and Enders Analysis’ Media and Telecoms 2019 and Beyond event in London today, Mahon said that Channel 4 is discussing how it can help “build the scale of BritBox”.
Speaking at the same event, BBC Director General, Tony Hall, described BritBox as a “new model of public service and commercial partnership in the UK” that will support “the whole public service broadcast ecology”.
“BritBox will provide an unrivalled collection of British boxsets as well as new original series that you won’t see anywhere else, on demand, all in one place,” said Hall.
“Crucially, UK audiences will always know who to credit for what they’re watching. Both ITV and the BBC will have full branding and attribution at service and programme level.”
Announcing the UK service last week, the BBC and ITV said that BritBox will have the biggest collection of British content available on any streaming service, alongside BritBox originals commissioned from British production companies.
The BritBox initiative sits alongside the BBC’s plans to make TV programmes available on its iPlayer catch-up service for at least 12 months after they air on TV, providing what Hall described as “more value for the licence fee”.
“It’s what audiences expect” said Hall. “19 million of our Killing Eve requests came before it was broadcast. So did five million of the 12 million requests for Peter Kay’s Car Share. Our research shows that a majority of people would like more boxsets and full series available, and available all year round.”
As the BBC sees it, extending the iPlayer window won’t affect the its ability to maximise commercial returns, as the initial public service window is not usually available for commercial exploitation in the UK and international sales won’t be harmed.
“Of course, all these proposals are subject to regulatory processes – clearly this could mean a delay,” said Hall. “Here I have to make an obvious but vital point. If we need to change and adapt to a new global, digital marketplace, so does the regulation around us.”
He added: “If we want PSB to continue to be relevant in the next 10 to 20 years, and to thrive at the heart of a uniquely powerful media ecology, we have to support it,” pointing out that, “the same programme can be regulated in half a dozen different ways in the UK, depending on who’s hosting it.”
On the regulation front, Mahon used her speech to warn that the UK is “sleepwalking into a position where public service content is no longer prominent.”
UK broadcast regulator Ofcom ran a consultation last year on proposed changes to the linear EPG code and future of the public service prominence and is due to report on the matter by the end of 2020.
Mahon and Hall’s comments come a year after Ofcom CEO Sharon White used the same conference stage to urge the UK’s public service broadcasters to collaborate with each other and also work with the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and Apple to tap into these services’ global reach.
A US version of BritBox, designed to offer “the very best of British TV” launched in the US in 2016 and rolled out to Canada in February 2018. The BBC and ITV said they aim to launch the UK service in the second half of 2019.