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BritBox is putting BBC and ITV shows behind a paywall – and people aren't happy

Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker
Image Credit: BBC
(Image credit: BBC)

BritBox is approaching. Over two years after the streaming service launched in the US and Canada – largely as a way to export quality British TV overseas – BritBox is coming back home, with a UK launch officially coming between October and December this year.

As a joint venture between UK broadcasters BBC and ITV, BritBox will bundle in a variety of classic and modern TV shows for a monthly subscription of £5.99 per month ($6.99 in the US).

This BBC News article on the announcement confirmed that "Many ITV and BBC programmes will move on to BritBox after they have been broadcast on TV and fallen off the broadcasters' own catch-up services – BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub."

BBC iPlayer currently can only host content for 30 days after broadcast, though it is appealing to Ofcom to extend this to a whole year instead.

However, not everything from these broadcasters will make their way to BritBox, and the service looks set to host exclusive shows and content not available through other channels or services. It also seems like a way to monetize BBC and ITV's extensive back catalogues, with shows like Midsomer Murders, Doctor Who, Poirot, and Gavin & Stacey which have countless episodes racked up over the years.

Suffice to say, not everyone is happy about this.

Don't I already pay the BBC?

UK viewers already have various avenues for watching BBC and ITV content, and separating this content into another platform, while retaining the current catch-up options, feels slightly convoluted. 

Obviously the content catalogues won't be the same, and BritBox content will be able to feature content for longer than iPlayer, which restricts the amount of time after broadcast that you can watch something online.

The concern is that more content will be funnelled into BritBox, with increasingly less being available through the likes of iPlayer. Given that UK viewers legally have to pay a UK license fee to access BBC TV channels and iPlayer, a further fee will rub some the wrong way. 

We could see people opting for one over the other, but there's bound to be some friction given the overlap of content – and the fact that the same content will be on different services at different times.

The idea of joint streaming service between BBC and ITV was mooted by competition watchdogs around a decade ago, and it's clear that the players involved are playing catch-up with the likes of Netflix, especially with Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus on the horizon.

But speaking to BBC News, former BBC executive Ashley Highfield suggested BritBox isn't "something that's going to take over from Netflix. It's probably going to rub alongside."

So should you subscribe in the UK? Check our our BritBox guide for our full run-down of the service, but until it launches, and unless the issue of people paying the license fee is worked out, we're stuck with a lot of muddled messages.

Mark Pocock, home comms expert at broadbandchoices.co.uk, commented on the incoming launch, saying that "Ultimately this announcement raises more questions than it answers, but does demonstrate that viewing habits are changing, to the point that even traditional entertainment institutions like BBC risk compromising their reputation to keep up.”

Via BBC News