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UK government supports Britflix streaming

Mon 16 May 2016

In a white paper released Thursday, on the future of the BBC, culture secretary John Whittingdale encouraged the government-supported corporation to develop a UK subscription streaming service. The service, unofficially called ‘Britflix’, could involve a collaboration between the BBC and its main rival ITV, among others. It is still in the early stages, but reportedly with the support of the government, the BBC will move forward with the plan.

The service, which would be delivered over the iPlayer, would present a viable alternative to streaming giants Netflix and Amazon Prime. It would carry archival content from the BBC and could commission original series as well, following the models set by Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Whittingdale, in a speech to the House of Commons in which he presented the white paper, said, “there may come a moment in the future where all television is delivered online.” He stated governmental support of streaming plans, saying, “We are moving into a different world where more and more content is going to be made available on demand. Collaboration with other broadcasters and other production companies we think is important. If they want to explore that kind of thing, we’d encourage them.”

This is quite a different message from the one sent in 2009, when the Competition Commission blocked a similar project entitled Project Kangaroo. Kangaroo was a proposed video on demand service which would offer content from BBC Worldwide, ITV, and Channel 4. When the UK regulatory Competition Commission blocked the rollout it was purchased by Arquiva and introduced as SeeSaw in 2010, but closed shortly after. Since 2009, however, the television market has changed. One study had unique visitors to Netflix quadrupling from 2012-2014, and a collaborative streaming project now has the support of the government.

The white paper also allowed for the closure of the ‘iPlayer loophole’, meaning that viewers who stream services from the BBC would be required to pay the BBC licensing fee; and also allowed that the licensing fee which has long been frozen would be allowed inflationary increases from 2017-2021.


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