BritBox Steals March On SVOD Rivals With ‘Vera’ Deal

ITV Studios

EXCLUSIVE: The competition between U.S. streaming services to acquire premium British dramas is heating up as BritBox, the streaming service set up by BBC Worldwide and ITV, poached the latest season of detective drama Vera away from rival Acorn TV.

I hear BritBox has picked up the eighth season of ITV Studios’ Brenda Blethyn-fronted mystery franchise and will launch it on January 7, day-and-date with its UK release. Various seasons of Vera have previously aired on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, while Acorn TV had the first six seasons.

The show, which regularly received around 6 million viewers in the UK, stars Blethyn as Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, a middle-aged employee of the Northumberland & City Police, who plods along in a disheveled state but has a calculating mind. The series is based on novels by crime writer Ann Cleeves.

Broadchurch’s Carolyn Pickles, who played investigative reporter Maggie in the Kudos-produced crime trilogy, is joining Season 8 of Vera, playing Rita, the wife of DI Harry Fenton, a member of the Northumberland & City Fraud team that Vera investigates.

Vera is the latest show to move from Acorn to BritBox after evergreen titles such as Helen Mirren-fronted legal drama Prime Suspect, Inspector Morse and Agatha Christie’s Poirot all moved following the end of their U.S. licence periods.

BritBox president Soumya Sriraman said: “Bringing new episodes of Vera to Britbox is very much like welcoming a member of the family home. The drama is one of ITV’s most popular and it’s also been one of our most requested. We are thrilled not just to bring new episodes Stateside but to be able to bring them just hours after they debut in the UK. This title is just one of many coming to subscribers in 2018 as we continue the strong momentum we’ve seen since we launched earlier this year.”

It is the latest deal for BritBox, which has been ramping up its offering in recent months. In October, it opened its doors to third-party acquisitions for the first time, picking up the U.S. rights to a raft of FremantleMedia International shows including Merlin, Against the Law, QI and Escape to the Country.

The service, which is priced at $6.99 per month, is also launching more than 100 Christmas specials in December and is simulcasting a number of shows for the first time. It will air a range of comedies, period dramas and entertainment series across the month. It also will near-simulcast The Queen’s Christmas Message, an annual UK tradition; Carols From Kings Event; as well as air holiday specials of BBC One soap EastEnders and ITV soap Coronation Street on Christmas Day. Other titles available include Dickensian, Inside No. 9, The Hairy Biker Christmas Party, French & Saunders Christmas Specials, Upstart Crow and Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special.

Meanwhile, last week Acorn TV set its January slate of premiering and returning international dramas and comedies. They include two Acorn TV originals, Detectorists and Girlfriends, as well as New Zealand legal drama Dear Murderer. Acorn has steadily expanded its role as co-producer and in January will be participating for the first time at the TCAs with an executive panel and panels for Girlfriends and Irish drama Striking Out.

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