With 500k subscribers, BBC and ITV’s BritBox plans more original series

Coming up on its two-year anniversary, British subscription video streaming channel BritBox has surpassed 500,000 paying subscribers. Now, the company plans to ramp up its investment on content, including funding more original series, co-productions as well as licensing popular British programming for its users in the U.S. and Canada.

Launched in 2017, BritBox is a joint venture between BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the BBC, and ITV, one of the largest commercial broadcasters in the U.K. (AMC Networks is also a minority investor in the company.) BritBox is focused on being a niche subscription service catering to fans of British programming. This includes exclusive licenses on shows such as the Rowan Atkinson-starring “Maigret” and John Cleese-starring “Hold the Sunset.” The channel also makes some popular shows such as “EastEnders” available within hours of the episode’s broadcast in the U.K.

Last summer, BritBox premiered its first original series, “Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.” The show was commissioned by BritBox and aired on the streaming channel in the U.S. and Canada, with ITV airing the series in a primetime slot in the U.K.

With subscribers doubling from 250,000 to 500,000 over the course of 2018, BritBox now plans to spend more toward commissioning exclusive original series as well as co-productions with broadcasters, producers and distributors in the U.K. BritBox did not provide an exact number of original series the company plans to commission in 2019.

“The business has been pleasantly surprising,” said Soumya Sriraman, president of BritBox. “You can do the math [on revenue]. We’re now in serious contention in terms of the dollars we can generate and what that means in terms of the bets we make.”

Calculated at the $7 monthly plan alone, BritBox is roughly doing $42 million in subscription revenue at this point.

Sriraman declined to comment on whether BritBox is profitable. The channel offers several different subscription options including a $7 monthly plan and $70 annual plan in the U.S, as well as an $8 monthly plan and $80 annual plan in Canada. The annual subscriptions were introduced at the end of 2018, with BritBox seeing a strong interest in the long-term subscriptions during the holiday season, Sriraman said.

Since September 2017, BritBox has been available as a subscription channel through the Amazon Prime Video Channels program, which allows Prime users to add streaming channel subscriptions through their Amazon accounts. This program has been successful in helping a wide range of TV networks and streaming video programmers quickly add new users, though at the expense of a direct relationship with the subscriber. (Prime Video Channels partners, for instance, don’t get email information on subscribers.)

A majority of BritBox subscribers signed up directly, Sriraman said. But she acknowledged that for many streaming video programmers, it’s important to be distributed on Prime Video Channels as well as any other third-party distribution platforms that provide easy access to new audiences.

“Data [on third-party platforms] is a big challenge, but it’s something we converse with our partners about all the time,” Sriraman said. “This is the way the world is going. It’s important to give audiences a choice… And we’ve been happy with the balance that Amazon has provided with our own [platform].”

One thing BritBox hasn’t done, according to Sriraman, is goose sign-ups by offering heavy discounts. The channel comes with a seven-day free trial, after which the subscriptions go into effect.

“We’ve not discounted or had to do anything out of the ordinary at all,” Sriraman said. “We’ve just been focusing on learning about the demographics [of the channel] and to double-down on it with different marketing tactics, content and distribution. That’s what we’ve been working on.”

While focused on being an indispensable streaming channel for fans of British TV, BritBox found an unlikely group of supporters: women ages 45 and above, living in the south or midwest regions of the U.S. While Sriraman did not break down how many BritBox subscribers fall into this category, she said this audiences over-indexes on time spent on BritBox by “130 to 140” percent. The average session time per BritBox subscriber is over 100 minutes, Sriraman said.

“This audience is under-served by everyone else,” Sriraman said. “I don’t know if it’s an audience anyone wants to claim if you think about the ad market in the U.S. these days.”

Going forward, BritBox is planning on doing more research around the viewing habits and preferences of both subscribers and non-subscribers that fall into this category, in order to get a better understanding of how to cater programming to their interests. “Has BritBox become a destination in Omaha, Georgia and Texas? It’s something we’re going to be more closely studying in the next few months.”

Image provided by BritBox


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