BBC to launch over-the-top service in U.S. in 2016
When the BBC discontinued its iPlayer service worldwide earlier this summer, industry pundits speculated as to what its next move would be in the streaming space. That strategy is now clearer as Tony Hall, director-general and chairman of BBC Worldwide, announced it will launch a new over-the-top service in the United States “offering BBC fans programmes they wouldn't otherwise get” according to Broadband TV News.
The new service will not be a reiteration of iPlayer, which brought a number of British shows to viewers outside the UK (but not in the U.S.) for a fee. Hall didn't elaborate further on the planned service, other than to say that it will launch in 2016.
The reason for the renewed OTT focus? According to Hall, it's not just a business decision: BBC wants to continue spreading British culture, or at least its unique programming, around the world. Except for news and sports, the volume of new content from the UK has dipped 13 percent over the past few years, equivalent to about 2,000 hours of lost programming, Hall said in a speech at the Royal Television Society's RTS Cambridge convention near London. Part of that has been due to budget cuts at the BBC's global service. More cuts are up for consideration by the UK's parliament, and BBC Worldwide is scrambling to find new ways to bring in revenue.
And Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) series aren't going to make up the difference, whether they're high-quality programming or not.
“In that time, Netflix and Amazon have produced only a few hundred hours of original content between them — across the world. Almost all of it made in the U.S. — not the UK,” Hall said. Since he sees British programming as a benchmark of quality, “the first thing we need is a secure BBC” to keep churning out content amid increasing competition.
The organization is also creating BBC Studios to develop original content. The unit will not be subsidized by the UK's television license fee.
It will also continue pursuing global partnerships with other content companies. In the U.S., AMC Networks acquired 49.9 percent of BBC America in October 2014 for $200 million and announced a long-term creative partnership between the two companies.