BBC, ITV and Channel 4 consider joining forces to take on Netflix, Amazon and YouTube
Year on year, the numbers of people watching terrestrial television have been dwindling, and it’s pretty clear what’s eaten the broadcaster’s lunch: streaming. With television on demand, people are no longer a slave to the TV listings, fitting their busy lives around entertainment. Instead, entertainment rather neatly plugs in the gaps, be it on Netflix, Amazon or YouTube.
To be entirely fair to the broadcasters, it’s not like they haven’t recognised the sea change and reacted to various degrees of effectiveness. The BBC has iPlayer, Channel 4 has 4oD, and there’s ITV Hub for all those episodes of Take Me Out you pretend not to binge watch. But they’re disparate solutions, and none of them offers the slick experience and range of a Netflix, with flakey performance (ITV Hub) and ad saturation (4oD) making them a last resort for many. BBC iPlayer may be better, but even it can’t compete with Netflix – and besides, all the shows vanish after a time.
Now, apparently, the broadcasters are putting their differences to one side and focusing on the real enemy. The Guardian is reporting that BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are considering uniting to make their own one-stop streaming solution – their own unlikely alliance to put a dent in the Netflix hegemony.
“All options are open, they are early conversations and no direction is firm yet,” a source familiar with the talks said. “But they know a video-on-demand platform play would be a true defence for the UK creative industries.”
It’s unsurprising in a way: the BBC has been trying to catch up with Netflix for some time, acknowledging steps it needed to take two years ago. Evident,ly it hasn’t been enough, with executives warning British content is at risk as recently as March this year.
Would a British TV streaming service trouble Netflix? That would depend on pricing and availability, you’d imagine, but that assumes that such a deal can even get off the ground. Past form suggests it won’t.
Eleven years ago, a similar project emerged named Project Kangaroo. This turned out to be an unfortunate name, given its total failure to get off the ground – it was blocked by the competition regulator in 2009. More recently ITV and the BBC joined forces to launch BritBox, but Channel 4 refused to take part and the service only ever launched in the United States.