Britain’s top TV regulator Ofcom has urged broadcasters to join together to create a domestic SVOD service capable of taking on the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
CEO Sharon White called for the BBC to lead the development of a service that brings together content from the British public broadcaster, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – and offered BritPlayer as a potential name.
Speaking at Freeview and Digital UK’s Outside the Box conference in London, White said, “There has been talk of our [public service broadcasters] combining their content – and pooling their appeal – through a single destination across smart TVs, phones and digital devices. That would require significant investment, shared ambition, and taking a chance on success. Our broadcasters would need to reconcile their varied brands, audiences and funding models. Some say it cannot be done,” she said. “[But] the opportunity to reach more people [is greater than ever].”
The civil servant, who has run Ofcom since 2015, pointed out that BBC’s iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 have tens of millions of registered users between them and a combined service would bring together shows such as Broadchurch, Blue Planet and The Great British Bake Off. “It would make it easier for viewers to access content across a range of devices, with a single login. Sharing data could provide unprecedented insights for investors, commissioners and advertisers. It could place them at the forefront of the technological revolution that is transforming TV.”
She urged the BBC and ITV, who have previously worked together on U.S. joint venture BritBox, to establish a similar service in the UK. “One wonders whether a ‘Brit Player’ for the UK could take off, potentially running alongside their existing brands. As the national broadcaster, we’d expect the BBC to take the lead on forming such partnerships as it has done successfully to date.”
White claimed that it was a necessary step to take on the likes of Netflix and Amazon. “The disrupters of today will be disrupted tomorrow. Who would bet against Netflix in time being overtaken by a new pretender? Change brings opportunity. And nowhere is that truer than in UK television,” she added. “Global players also recognise the value of localising their content. Netflix has opened a commissioning base in London, with Paris and Madrid to follow. Amazon and YouTube are adopting similar strategies.”