BBC, ITV, C4 & C5 prep ‘UK streamer app’ to combat global SVODs

BBC director-general Tim Davie

UK broadcasters are reportedly looking to create a single streaming app that would act as a gateway to their catch-up and on-demand services.

UK public service broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – began talking in earnest about the proposal early this year, but are now hopeful of reaching an agreement by November as a matter of urgency.

This is to meet a deadline for inclusion of the proposed joint app on the latest generation of smart TVs, due to be released next year.

The project, which is being discussed under the aegis of Freeview, the broadcasters’ previous joint project to create a single digital-terrestrial TV platform, aims to create a simpler navigation experience for viewers faced with a growing array of choice from global streaming giants.

Single content source

Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon

The goal, according to UK newspaper The Telegraph – which broke the story citing unnamed sources, would be to create a single joint app that would surface content from all broadcasters.

This content could then be viewed directly via the app or it could alternatively take viewers through to the individual participants’ streaming services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and My5. Such a service could potentially provide access to a huge raft of shows, ranging from the BBC’s Peaky Blinders to Channel 4’s It’s A Sin and ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

The report also says that the project could see dedicated buttons for the app on TV remotes, a tactic already used by Netflix.

Background & viability

The reported plans come just days after the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention, at which senior industry figures talked up their strategies to combat the huge influence of US-based streamers.

BBC chief Tim Davie, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall and Channel 4’s Alex Mahon all discussed how they were planning to entice viewers via their streaming services, with rumours that a joint streaming service could be in the works. Melanie Dawes, boss of UK media regulator Ofcom, also urged the broadcasters to act with ambition to maintain their reach to viewers.

Davie, in particular, also spoke of global ambitions, admitting that commercial arm BBC Studios is facing some “really big choices” over the potential of launching a global streamer.

On the UK front, meanwhile, The Telegraph said that the broadcasters are looking to strike a deal with TV manufacturers first to secure distribution on the next wave of smart TVs, followed by streaming devices and finally pay TV platforms such as Sky.

“In terms of targeting consumers, such joint initiative from broadcasters improves content discoverability and viewer retention,” said Marija Masalskis, senior principal analyst for TV, video and advertising at TBI’s sister research house, Omdia.

“In our bi-annual consumer survey when we asked respondents: ‘On an average day, how do you most often choose what you want to watch?’, the most popular answer among UK consumers was: ‘Flicking through channels and services’ (27% of respondents).

ITV CEO Carolyn McCall

“This joint initiative will encourage this type of content discovery.

“In terms of targeting advertisers, connected TV is currently the most dynamic segment of advertising market in North America and Western Europe. We see a lot of land-grab going on in this space – this market is the most natural successor to linear TV as ratings decline and advertisers shift budgets to digital.

“It doesn’t look like there are currently any details on if and how this agreement between UK broadcasters will be leveraged for advertising sales. However, broadcaster alliances are a great strategy to achieve the scale and secure first party data that are critical in order to be competitive in the CTV market against Google and newly emergent aggregators such as Samsung TV.”

Most Recent