Why Britbox Will Be A Brit Flop

Are Brits too miserable to see what we have -- are we doomed to forever be the ones in the room saying "the only problem with that" or "the trouble is"? It's a pertinent question as plans to launch Britbox in the second half of the year surfaced yesterday.

BBC and ITV are coming together to pool data in what you might call a British version of Netflix. No sooner had the announcement been made then British media types were online questioning what on earth the joined-up service would offer to persuade people to part with an expected GBP5 per-month subscription fee?

It's actually a valid question the more you think about it. The trouble with the BBC is that we all feel we own the content already because our licence fee has paid for it.

It's a pretty tough sell, then, to ask Brits to pay a fiver a month for what they feel they should rightfully have free access to via the BBC iPlayer. 

The worm on the end of the hook will be ITV content. A cynic might point out people can get that already for free via the ITV Hub. Mind you, when I just searched on the hub, I couldn't find any episodes of "Downton Abbey" currently available.

This brings up another "the only problem with that" moment. Hasn't the balance of power swung toward production companies that hold back on streaming rights so they can make money out of physical box-set deals?

Maybe they could be persuaded to sell streaming rights, but then again, there are the two giants of Netflix and Amazon Prime to bid against here.

I don't want to come across as a media snob but I'd be hard-pressed to think of many ITV shows I like enough to bother seeking out online or through a smart television. 

And just to raise another "the only problem with that is" point -- won't everything current on a joined-up service have already been shown on the television recently? It's not like Netflix, where a show is exclusive -- the only way you're going to find out what happens next is "Ozark" is to keep on subscribing and wait for Season Three.

Britbox will have to get over the problem it doesn't have in America of people just watching the shows for free and recording them to their set-top box. 

Sorry to raise another "the only problem," but don't the BBC and ITV run endless repeats of old material they have access to already on their own channels as well, for the BBC, Dave and W. OK -- it's not on demand, but the content the pair have to offer has been seen many, many times.

There may be some old gems in there that people would love enough to pay for, but if the channels have the rights already to stream them, aren't they already streaming them? And for free?

Which brings us to the joined-up service piece. A single app or service is going to be a lot easier to search through than loaded two apps and typing in what you are looking for. Again, "the only problem with that" is many households already have Sky.

All they need to do is type in, or say out loud, a programme name and they are instantly offered the chance to click on the show, regardless of which streaming app it comes from. 

Sky is an interesting case because it is now integrated with Netflix, making searching across the two platforms far easier. Isn't this essentially what Britbox is? Couldn't it not just have been two apps that let you search through both at the same time, without the need to see if people could be bothered to spend a fiver a month for the privilege?

I would love British programming to stand up and take on Netflix, but "the only problem with that" is many producers withhold streaming rights and so a hit show doesn't always mean you'll have something to add to the streaming catalogue.

Every show on the new service will presumably already have been televised. Those old gems are likely to have been shown many times on repeat on multiple channels. 

It is going to be a very tough sell to convince people to pay a fiver just for the ease of searching in one app when they get free access to content at the moment. Let's not forget, if you're talking about going ad-free as a bonus for paying a subscription, there is no advertising on the BBC anyway.

It's hard to see how this is going to stack up and be a commercial success. I would love it to be, but the only problem with that is that it seems highly unlikely.

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