BBC Streaming Service is on the Way


Bring on the Brits – the BBC is preparing to launch its own streaming service. While there is a wealth of BBC programming available in general on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu already, many of those contracts are ending and the BBC is hot on the search for new revenue streams. Fans of shows like Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf and Blackadder were depressed to see these fan favorites pulled from Netflix in September, though the widespread panic on the part of anglophiles was allayed when Dr. Who, the Office and Lutherstayed on the streaming service. It’s clear that there’s a serious appetite for one of the world’s largest entertainment producers.

Many Americans don’t realize that the BBC is a publicly funded service, much like PBS in the United States. Just like PBS, the BBC has seen a dramatic decline in public funds as of late. The British government is currently conducting a review to determine how well the BBC is spending its money and whether the service could do more to raise profits and to create streams of income. One thing that is dramatically different about the BBC and PBS is that there is a “television licence fee” assessed in each household and business in Britain, with funds directly going the BBC. This fee is around $300 for a color television and $150 for a black and white set. That fee is assessed per set – so it’s easy to imagine the kinds of funds that it generates. However the increase in access to programming on computer screens and tablets has meant that this revenue stream has stalled in the past few years, and the BBC is seeking ways to compensate. A proprietary streaming service is a logical source.

The director general of the BBC, Lord Hall, has been clear that he is ready to both offer access to nostalgia generating content like Upstairs, Downstairs and Blackadder in addition to the whole host of currently popular programming that the BBC can offer access to that is not currently available outside the British Isles. The BBC has already begun extending some of its programming to other providers in an effort to raise profits, much in the way that PBS has extended Sesame Street to HBO. The new service is expected to begin with current programming offerings, eventually extending those offerings into creative programming that is not available through BBC channels. This extension to original programming is perhaps an attempt to mimic the incredible success of of original content that has been created for Amazon and Hulu, while at the same time driving new subscribers in Britain and beyond to the subscriber based service. It’s important to note that many Brits already have access to much of the programming that is expected to be available on the BBC’s streaming service and as such it will be in the international marketplace (i.e. America) that the BBC has the most potential to add a new revenue stream through this streaming player.

It’s expected that the BBC will offer a monthly subscription in the same vein as HBO’s streaming player, and that will be built on the base of the iPlayer, it’s current offering for local British subscribers to catch up on current programming. Further details and launch date aren’t available just yet, but expect to hear a lot about this potential service from hungry Americans who are ready to access a wider breadth of BBC programming, as well as having a more stable resource than is available through current streaming services.

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