UK broadcaster ITV is to launch ITVX later this year, a new integrated AVOD and SVOD streaming service, which will debut much of its new content months ahead of its linear channels.
Viewers will have the option to watch content for free via an advertising-funded tier or upgrade to a subscription model that includes the same content ad-free, along with additional programming from BritBox and other partners.
The UK commercial broadcaster also confirmed that the BBC had sold its 10% stake in the UK version of BritBox, which will remain as a brand on ITVX but not as a standalone streaming service.
Linear lag & BBC’s BritBox exit
The launch of the new platform will replace ITV’s existing free streaming service, ITV Hub, later this year. ITV Hub currently has 4,000 hours of content while ITVX is expected to have around 15,000 hours at launch.
ITV said that it is adopting a digital-first windowing strategy, giving ITVX preference on the latest shows, which will arrive on broadcast channels six to nine months later.
As well as “streaming first” exclusives, all ITV drama and comedy commissions will be made available to viewers on ITVX as soon as the first episode has aired on ITV’s linear channels. The same will be true for “the majority” of reality series.
Live events such as sport will be live-streamed on ITVX at the same time as they are shown on the linear channels.
“We are supercharging our streaming business, fundamentally shifting our focus to think digital first, as well as optimising our broadcast channels, by continuing to attract unrivalled mass audiences,” said ITV CEO Carolyn McCall. “In doing so we are responding to changing viewing habits, but also the evolving needs from our advertisers. This will enable ITV to continue to be both commercial viewers and advertisers’ first choice.”
Reaction to this new “digital-first” strategy was met with uncertainty from investors, however, with share prices falling by 17-18% following the announcement. It came as ITV announced a 24% rise in total external revenue to £3.4bn ($4.6bn), in 2021, up from 2020’s £2.7bn.
The broadcaster also revealed viewing across ITV’s linear channels and ITV Hub in 2021 had dropped almost 10% on 2020, with just over 15bn hours viewed last year as a partial easing of lockdowns freed up viewers.
The move has placed ITVX at the heart of CEO McCall’s plans to double the broadcaster’s digital revenues to at least £750m ($1bn) by 2026. However, with ITV’s content investment now set to rise to £1.35bn by 2023, including on BritBox, and further spending on data, tech, streaming and ITVX launch costs, there appears to be investor concern about the impact on overall revenues.
Exclusive show launches
The service will stream both commissioned and acquired content, including ITV dramas, documentaries, US series, comedy and reality shows, as well as feature films.
Exclusive new drama series set to debut on ITVX include A Spy Among Friends, starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce, Nolly starring Helena Bonham Carter, The Confessions Of Frannie Langton, starring Karla-Simone Spence, Lenny Henry’s six part drama The Little Birds, The Sex Lives Of College Girls from Mindy Kaling, and Litvinenko starring David Tennant.
ITVX’s comedy content will include Deep Fake, which uses the titular technique to create celebrity set-ups, as well as a feature-length film finale for Plebs.
Factual content will include The Case Against Cosby – a documentary exposing new truths about accusations against US actor Bill Cosby with exclusive access to survivors, as well as a natural history series, A Year On Planet Earth.
Among the boxsets of existing series available on ITVX will be scripted dramas such as Broadchurch and Brideshead Revisited and unscripted shows like Love Island and Up.
It will also carry US shows like Supernatural and Veronica Mars, while the SVOD tier will provide access to BritBox and series such as “classic” Doctor Who. The pricing of the subscription tier will be announced later in the year.
FAST channels & scaling up ITV Hub
ITVX will also carry an “ever-changing” number of exclusive themed FAST channels, with 20 planned at launch, including Hell’s Kitchen US, True Crime, The Oxford Detectives, 90s Favourites and The Chase. ITV intends to offer viewers a new themed channel, every week of the year on ITVX.
Rufus Radcliffe, ITV’s MD of streaming, commented: “2021 was a record year for ITV Hub and BritBox, giving us strong foundations from which to supercharge our streaming strategy.
“We are investing significantly in new and exclusive programmes which will be free to stream, and also in technology and product design to make the viewer experience and interface a premium one on ITVX.”