Over the next 12 months, a number of major media companies will release their brand new video streaming services, taking on the existing ones from Netflix, Amazon, CBS and Hulu to name a few. TV and video as we know it is on the cusp of changing drastically with many saying that we’ll no longer need regular live TV and instead, everything will be watched ‘On Demand’. In fact, 79% of the British population already use catch-up technology such as BBC iPlayer. Despite this, the BBC are struggling to attract younger audiences after admitting that young people spend more time watching Netlix and using streaming services such as Spotify than they do watching BBC TV services (including iPlayer) and listening to BBC radio stations. With this in mind, the BBC has partnered with ITV to release ‘BritBox’ – a subscription service that will feature popular shows from both channels, plus thousands of hours of classic British television including famous dramas, comedies and documentaries. In addition, with the price confirmed at £5.99 per month, BritBox is already situating itself as a cheaper alternative to Netflix, Prime Video and NowTV. However, could it be an unfortunate case of too little, too late?
The global media market is currently dominated by a handful of businesses in America and the competition is fierce. In addition, new contenders are wanting to get a piece of the action with the likes of Disney, NBC and Apple all set to release new products in the next 12 months. For decades, traditional entertainment providers have followed a straight-forward business model whereby their TV programs are sold to consumers via networks and channels and the money is made back via advert breaks. In the streaming world, subscribers have to be attracted and retained. It is all too easy to cancel a subscription in favour of a different provider at the click of a few buttons. If the subscription services fail to offer what the consumer wants or if there is a lull in new shows then there may be a significant turnover in subscribers. Without long term contracts, the services will need to provide new and original shows and popular reruns.
With this in mind, many companies are getting ahead of the game. Amazon recently acquired the right to make a TV series based on The Lord of the Rings at a cost of $250 million before a single line of script has even been written. The Walt Disney Co. have acquired the bulk of 21st Century Fox in order to maximize their offering, CBS have produced original series including Star Trek: Discovery – a series which is costing them approximately $8million per episode, making it one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced and Apple has enlisted help from Oprah and Steven Spielberg. In addition to all of this, the cost of advertising and maintenance will also be high and some companies have decided not to get involved in the competition at all. Instead, they’re happy to sit back and wait to see who prospers and then strike up a deal. Even Netflix, arguably the biggest player, isn’t safe. After raising subscription prices in 2018 to cover the cost of its massive investments, it suffered a net loss of US subscribers for the first time in 8 years and their share value plummeted.
Whichever route BritBox decide to go down, they are brave to do so in such a busy market. With so many steaming services to choose from, consumers are likely to limit themselves to only a small number of services at any one time and may not wish to pay for another platform. But BritBox have argued that they are not competing with Netflix and the like and instead, are offering an entirely unique service which is focused on British programmes. Hopefully, this will be a chance for the UK to get in on the action and for British consumers to enjoy a video on demand service that specialises in many beloved British classics, along with new and exciting TV programmes.