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BBC and ITV mull Netflix strategy

News, 14 March 2016

LONDON: The BBC is reported to have held early stage talks with arch rival ITV about launching a Netflix-style video streaming service, as both UK broadcasters seek to monetise some of their older content.

According to "multiple sources" who spoke to the Guardian, the UK's two largest terrestrial broadcasters have been at a very early stage of "exploring and evaluating" a possible new service, which could also involve NBC Universal.

It is likely the new streaming service would focus mostly on offering older archive TV content – both companies have a huge catalogue of material – rather than first-run programmes. However, it is understood that some original content may be included.

Both the BBC and ITV, its commercial competitor, already offer digital TV services to British viewers, but the content is limited to 30 days. Older content can be watched on the recently launched online BBC Store.

Netflix, the US video streaming service, also offers older content to its five million subscribers in the UK and it seems the BBC/ITV plan is looking to tap into that demand.

There are also wider issues at stake. Although the BBC has a commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, it receives the great majority of its revenue from British licence fee payers and the corporation is looking to make £800m annual savings. Any new streaming service would help to boost its commercial earnings.

And for ITV, the initiative would fit into its publically stated ambition "to explore new models for content creation and distribution through a mix of pay channels and online", as outlined earlier this month by its chief executive, Adam Crozier.

It is not yet clear if the new plan will also involve Channel 4, which the UK government is said to be seeking to privatise, but it is thought unlikely that regulatory and competition issues would stand in the way.

Data sourced from Guardian; additional content by Warc staff