BBC Worldwide and U.K. broadcaster ITV are combining their content portfolios in a joint venture launch of BritBox, an ad-free subscription video on demand (SVOD) service coming to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017.
The companies have also brought aboard as an investor AMC Networks, which has a joint venture with BBC Worldwide for cable channel BBC America. BBC Worldwide and ITV share an equal majority stake in the joint venture and AMC will hold a nonvoting minority interest.
BritBox will feature series that have yet to premiere in the U.S., including "New Blood," "Tutankhamun," "The Moonstone," and "In The Dark." The service will also feature a “Now” category housing soaps and series like "Eastenders," "Emmerdale" and "Holby City," available as soon as 24 hours after their U.K. broadcast. BritBox will also offer older British series from ITV and the BBC including "Brideshead Revisited," "Pride and Prejudice," "Upstairs Downstairs," "State of Play," "Inspector Morse," "Rosemary and Thyme," "Keeping Up Appearances" and "Fawlty Towers."
BritBox will launch on web, mobile (iOS and Android), Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast in the U.S. A specific launch date and pricing have yet to be announced.
“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 of BBC Worldwide North America, in a statement. “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.”
“The BBC and ITV each have a long history of creating spectacular premium content and some of the most iconic shows on television. We are delighted to expand our current partnership with BBC Worldwide and view this investment as a strategic opportunity for AMC Networks to participate in a digital platform dedicated to offering shows of the highest quality," said AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan in a statement.
It’s unclear if BritBox is the service to which Tony Hall, director-general and chairman of BBC Worldwide, was referring when he said in late 2015 that BBC had plans to launch an OTT service in the U.S. in 2016. That service, which BBC left unnamed at the time, was meant to be a standalone and not a reworking of the iPlayer platform BBC Worldwide had used to offer its programming outside of the U.K. but not in the U.S.