The UK TV Channels Can Take On Netflix -- Here's How

Can the British tv channels, and NBC, really take on Netflix? Can resurrecting the ill-fated Project Kangaroo really be the answer?

That is the question on the media industry's mind this morning. On the face of it, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 combining content with NBC on one platform makes a lot of sense. At the moment, the catch-up services are scattered between different apps, which require people to know which channel owns the rights to which show -- and that can often change from one series of a hit programme to another.

So a single home for the main terrestrial channels makes sense. There is no mention of Channel 5 -- but to be honest, if you had to have a service without one public broadcaster, it would be the one most would drop most readily. 

There is always a "but" when dealing with the Brits and a new radical suggestion is on the table. But with the BBC there is a very big one. The corporation is not commercial, it's a national treasure that has always been advertising free. At some stage the negotiators will have to grapple with the issue that if the BBC has commissioned a hit show, then it has been paid for with the public's money. How do you then charge them to access it? How do you put advertising or sponsorship against the content when it is from the BBC and advertising-free?

The main commercial channels are obviously allowed to sign up sponsors for certain genres or particular shows. They keep the proverbial lights on by offering ads before and during a streamed show. The BBC can't. 

One potential answer would be to have the BBC Worldwide as the partner because it operates outside the UK and accepts advertising. This still wouldn't get around the problem of the BBC being commercialised within the UK.

So, the only way I can see this working is if it's a free service from which commercial partners take their slice of ad revenue, exactly as they do today on their separate services. The BBC's content would have to be left without advertising but, then, that's exactly how it is offered on iPlayer at the moment. 

The only problem here, again, is that the BBC could seem to be offering a lot of content to get people into an app, which could boost commercial stations' revenues when viewers snack on additional content. 

So,could the final answer be the joint enterprise paying to use iPlayer's technology so the BBC gets a fixed payment for its part in the scheme? Commercial tv stations would then take their slice of advertising revenue and presumably everyone could be happy. 

Back in 2008 we had Project Kangaroo, a coming together of the main UK broadcasters to form a single streaming entity. It was blocked on competition grounds but now we have Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it would be hard to see competition as a barrier. 

This leaves the door more open than before so long as the issue of advertising free BBC is accommodated. Licensing BBC iPlayer technology to drive the system would be a neat way around this and would allow today's separate systems to come together as one, with everyone having some skin in the game as the public's licence fee donations are topped up by a broadcaster (technology) licensing fee.

1 comment about "The UK TV Channels Can Take On Netflix -- Here's How".
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  1. nerd rage from Nerdrage Inc., May 9, 2018 at 12:34 p.m.

    For this service to compete with Netflix, it needs to have one of Netflix's key values: no ads. It also needs a couple others: cheap subscription and an immense and ever-gowing library of diverse content.

    How do you charge people $10 a monht and fund $8 billion a year in cotnent? Global reach, that's how. Netflix has 125 million subscribers, greatly in excess of the entire UK population and its growth has only just begun. There could be as many as a billion potential subscribers out there, waiting for someone to serve their needs. Yowzah.

    The BBC needs to simply imitate Netflix: become a global subscription-based, ad-free servcie that servcs the whole world, of which the UK is just a small part. Of course then the BBC can't justify forcing Brits to subscribe when it's voluntary everywhere else, but that's ok, they can more than make up for the loss by appealing to subscribers outside the UK.

    But then the BBC isn't British per se anymore, is it? Anymore than Netflix is. Anyway, it's far too late and the opportunity is gone. Should have done this 5 years ago, if they were going to do it at all.

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