Exclusive: ITV kickstarts internal trials of BritBox ahead of launch

Downton Abbey

ITV has begun beta-testing BritBox among staff ahead of its launch later this year.

TBI understands that a briefing took place earlier this week around the UK-focused venture with the BBC, where the service was unveiled to select staff.

All employees were invited to apply to trial the service, but only a select group of individuals has been tapped to test out the platform’s functionality and navigation.

It is believed that staff can try out the platform only within ITV’s Leather Lane headquarters in London, and cannot access the service from home.

TBI understands that testing is currently taking place solely out of ITV. Neither BBC Studios nor the wider BBC public service is believed to be trialling the platform in any way ahead of its Q4 launch.

This is in line with the operational structure for the JV, for which ITV holds 90% of equity, with the remaining 10% held by the BBC, which is still able to contribute to the development of the “core purposes and strategic direction” of BritBox.

BBC director general Tony Hall and ITV CEO Carolyn McCall

In July, ITV and the BBC revealed details around pricing for the service, which will be available for a monthly subscription of £5.99 ($7.50).

British shows such as ITV’s Downton Abbey and BBC Two’s The Office will sit on the service, alongside BBC comedy Gavin & Stacey and ITV drama Broadchurch (pictured). Reality series Love Island and more recent scripted series such as BBC One and HBO’s Gentleman Jack will also be available on the platform.

An editorial team is now in place, led by Reemah Sakan, group director of ITV SVOD, who is responsible for making editorial decisions that align with ITV and the BBC’s branding and editorial policies.

Sakan works alongside former Amazon and Little Dot Studios exec Amy Jones, who is overseeing original commissioning for the service. Meanwhile, ITV director of TV Kevin Lygo has overall commissioning responsibility for the platform.

BritBox’s long-awaited launch later this year comes as UK media regulator Ofcom revealed in a new report titled ‘UK becomes a nation of streamers’ that the number of UK households subscribed to SVOD services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and Disney Life increased from 11.2m (39% of households) in 2018 to 13.3m (47%) in 2019.

While traditional viewing still accounts for most TV time (69%, or an average of 3 hours and 12 minutes per day), this fell by nine minutes in 2017, and by 11 minutes in 2018. According to Ofcom, viewers now watch 50 minutes less traditional TV each day than they did in 2010, with traditional TV viewing among the 16-24 year-old demo having halved since 2010.

BritBox’s UK debut will be followed by the launch of France’s Salto – a similar JV by commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6 and public broadcaster France Télévisions.

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