US fans of British TV will be able to feast on shows ranging from EastEnders, Holby City and Cold Feet when new streaming service BritBox launches in the US next year.
BritBox, which will become available before the end of March 2017, will open for business with a range of BBC and ITV shows including New Blood, Tutankhamun, The Moonstone, Cold Feet and Silent Witness.
Subscribers will also be able to watch the soaps EastEnders, Emmerdale and Holby City as soon as 24 hours after they are show in the UK.
The service will also showcase heritage dramas from the back catalogue of the UK’s premiere broadcasters.
These include Brideshead Revisited, Pride and Prejudice, and Upstairs Downstairs, State of Play, murder mystery series Inspector Morse and Rosemary and Thyme and sitcoms Keeping Up Appearances and Fawlty Towers among others.
The venture is the culmination of years of effort by both the BBC and ITV to develop an appealing US streaming service. BBC director-general Tony Hall indicated his wish to have a streaming service across the Atlantic in a speech to the Royal Television Society in 2014.
The launch will also be seen as a clear a bid to capitalise on the lucrative streaming market in the US which is estimated to be worth $8bn and with 110 million subscriptions to date.
The huge success of Netflix series The Crown, which the BBC had hoped to develop itself, is understood to have rocked many at the top of the BBC.
However the Corporation is insistent that it will not affect the BBC’s existing relationship with US partners. Netflix showcases a number of BBC programmes such as Happy Valley while Doctor Who is available on Amazon in the US in a so-called “second window” after it has aired on BBC America. Neither is expected to air on BritBox.
Sherlock – which is a co-production between the BBC and PBS – will also not be appearing in the near future.
However sources close to the venture are insistent that the new service will not be a receptacle for shows that the BBC cannot sell to – or co-produce with – companies like Amazon and Netflix. One source insisted that it will “complement” what is currently being offered and showcased in the US.
“This is very much aimed at people in the US including expats who can’t get enough of British content,” said a source.
Neither the BBC nor ITV would indicate when the BritBox launch date will be or how much viewers will be charged for the service.
“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 – some of which will be available right after their UK broadcast. This will be a must-have service for lovers of British television.”
Simon Pitts, ITV Managing Director of Online, Pay TV and Interactive said: “Britain produces some of the best television in the world and we’re delighted to be bringing the creative might of the BBC and ITV together for the first time in this exciting new streaming service for U.S. fans. BritBox will be the best and most comprehensive British streaming service in the U.S.; a rich catalogue of classic, new, and exclusive shows easily accessible to U.S. viewers all in one place. ITV is now a global production and distribution business and this marks the first step in our international ambitions for BritBox.”
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