For nearly as long as the BBC and ITV have made their programming available for Brits to stream, there have been American viewers seeking various tech workarounds to gain access to those streams. Those efforts are about to be rendered moot — for a fee. British rivals BBC Worldwide and ITV are teaming up to tap into the U.S. streaming marketplace with the forthcoming ad-free streaming subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service BritBox.
“The BBC and ITV are the two most prolific content producers and broadcasters in British television — both known for their unrivaled, ground-breaking shows,” said Ann Sarnoff, president, BBC Worldwide North America. “BritBox will offer a streaming experience like no other, with thousands of hours of programs across a wide variety of genres.”
AMC Networks, which operates BBC America as a joint venture with BBC Worldwide, will be taking a non-voting minority stake in the service.
BritBox will launch in the first quarter of 2017 in the U.S.; details about price will be revealed then. At the start, the service will premiere dramas like “New Blood,” “In the Dark,” and “Silent Witness,” in addition to hosting a library of classics like “Pride and Prejudice,” “Fawlty Towers,” and “Upstairs Downstairs.” Certain current U.K. series, like “EastEnders” and “Emmerdale,” will be available for U.S. customers to stream as early as 24 hours after they appear on British airwaves.
BritBox will theoretically compete with RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn TV SVOD service, which since 2011 has offered a fairly wide array of British series like “Poirot” for the price of $4.99 a month, or $49.99 for a year. In October, AMC Networks invested $65 million in RLJ Entertainment.
“The BBC and ITV each have a long history of creating spectacular premium content and some of the most iconic shows on television,” said Josh Sapan, president and CEO of AMC Networks. “We are delighted to expand our current partnership with BBC Worldwide and view this investment as a strategic opportunity for AMC Networks to participate in a digital platform dedicated to offering shows of the highest quality.”
SNL Kagan estimates that the U.S. streaming market will be worth $8 billion by the end of 2016, which explains the presence of AMC Networks’ fingers in several different streaming pies. In 2015, AMC Networks beta-launched Shudder, a horror-specific streaming service that costs $4.99 a month (or $49.99 for a year). (Shudder was initially powered by the tech behind SVOD service DramaFever, which was acquired by Warner Bros. earlier in 2016.) AMC Networks also has Sundance Now, an SVOD service dedicated to documentaries and indie films and series, like French-language spy drama “The Bureau.”