Brit pubcaster BBC has been given the green light to launch a new paid-for subscription service to rival Netflix and Amazon, according to a report from The Daily Telegraph.
The project, which is understood to have the working title Britflix, could see the Beeb potentially partner with rival ITV and “a number of production companies” to launch the service, including NBC Universal, which owns programs such as “Downton Abbey.” The project is believed to still be in the early stages of development.
The long-awaited White Paper on the future of the BBC was unveiled on May 12 and in it, the corporation was called to develop “some form of additional subscription service,” paving the way for the corporation to provide a mixed-model of licence fee funding. Under the new charter renewal, which unspools in 2017, culture secretary John Whittingdale said that the BBC would for the first time be able to charge a fee to viewers who shun TVs, but watch its programs on its popular online catch-up service iPlayer.
According to the Telegraph, Whittingdale said it was the Beeb that had requested “new powers to levy subscriptions” and that the new online service, expected to be delivered over the iPlayer, would serve as a rival to U.S. giants Netflix and Amazon.
The Guardian first reported in March that BBC and ITV were looking at developing a subscription service that would likely provide older, archive TV content as well as a “certain amount” of original commissions.
Whittingdale told the Telegraph: “We’re moving into a different world where more and more content is going to be made available on demand. Collaboration with other broadcasters and other production companies we think is important. If they want to explore that kind of thing, we’d encourage them. There may come a moment in the future where all television is delivered online, and if you do that it becomes a more realistic, practical possibility if you wanted to move towards an element of voluntary subscription.”
Both the Beeb and commercial broadcaster ITV make their content available to audiences digitally for 30 days. Britons pay £145.50 ($207.95) per year for access to BBC content, including the BBCiPlayer and after content moves off the service, it can be accessed through pay-TV service UKTV, online outlet BBC Store or DVDs and Netflix, the latter of which houses shows like “Top Gear.”
ITV management has talked about ways to exploit its extensive program archive, which includes shows such as “Mr Selfridge,” “Come Dine With Me,” Coronation Street” and “Hell’s Kitchen,” and has noted the success of VoD and streaming services such as Netflix in extending the commercial life of content.
The channel has grown its production arm, ITV Studios, through a series of acquisitions which led to a revenue hike of a third last year to £1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) and a profit increase of 27% to £206 million ($294 million). ITV chief Adam Croizer said earlier this month at the company’s annual results announcement that ITV would continue to build on its “ability to monetise our content online as well as on pay channels.”
Reps for both parties declined to comment on the story.