Britbox – It Won’t Work You Know, Won’t Work At All

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From our special correspondent – why this latest idea for a British streaming service for British people won’t work:

The BBC and ITV are in the concluding phase of talks to establish a strategic partnership to bring an exciting new streaming service to UK audiences. The BBC and ITV have agreed a joint vision for the service, to be called BritBox, and are now working on a formal legal agreement. The BBC and ITV anticipate that other partners will be added to BritBox and both will speak to regulators and the wider industry about their proposals. BritBox would be an original streaming service providing an unrivalled collection of British boxsets and original series, on demand, all in one place and would provide: • The biggest collection of British content available on any streaming service
• Brand new commissions for British production companies specifically created for BritBox.  

Sigh. I’ll eat my hat if this doesn’t tank. Woeful numbers of subscribers, millions written off etc. Here’s why:

“2. Research commissioned by ITV shows that desire for British content is high – with 43% of all online homes interested in subscribing to a new SVOD service which features British content. This increases to over 50% in homes with a Netflix subscription. This would be in addition to their current subscriptions.”

There’re two problems here. Firstly, this is wish-fulfilment. These networks are in the business of selling British content of all sorts. Everything from cookery shows to cop shows. They come from an era of national TV. Their expertise is mostly localised on the UK. They aren’t trying to work out what the market wants, they’re just expecting the market to take what they provide. This seems to be quite common to businesses that have been in a comfortable position for a while and are disrupted.

Secondly is the stated/revealed preference problem. Ask people if they want to see more British content, they generally say they do. British stuff is generally what people think they should say they like. They feel that somehow it betters them. But what do people really watch? Well, they watch some British content, but they really watch genres. Women will watch stuff with men who look like Hugh Grant, but also stuff with Patrick Dempsey. Men will watch violent Guy Richie movies, but also violent Quentin Tarantino movies. Which is why this is where most of the new channels are heading. Channels like Shudder (horror movies), HayU (reality TV), Criterion (arthouse and classic cinema)