BritBox Boss Says Originals “Aren’t Everything” As Streamer Launches In UK With No New Shows

Midsomer Murders
Midsomer Murders: BritBox will premiere two episodes of the drama before they air on ITV. Bentley Productions/ITV

BritBox, the subscription streaming service from the BBC and ITV, has officially opened its doors to UK audiences for £5.99 ($7.69) a month. But unlike Apple TV+, which debuted last week with glossy dramas such as The Morning Show, BritBox will not be offering subscribers any original content until next year at the earliest.

Asked by Deadline why originals are not at the heart of its launch strategy, BritBox boss Reemah Sakaan told a press briefing that ITV and the BBC are keen to establish the brand initially through its library of thousands of hours of content, including box-sets of Downton Abbey and The Office.

“Originals are really important, but they aren’t everything. You’ve got to establish the brand and the business. It’s a brand new brand in the UK market. We have to get to scale distribution and originals take time to make. Quite frankly, we felt if we waited another year, the window is closing and we really need to be present and out there,” Sakaan said.

She pointed out that Netflix was an archive service before House Of Cards came along in 2013 and lit up the originals strategy in the streaming market. She also noted Apple’s “very different approach” of having a handful of original shows and no library. “There is no silver bullet model. It’s a really fast-growing and interesting sector where there are lots of ways to succeed,” said Sakaan, the group director of ITV SVOD.

She said that BritBox would announce a raft of originals in the “near future.” The streamer will carry around six exclusive shows a year, with a focus on high-end scripted projects. ITV alone is spending £40M on the service in 2020 and Sakaan said the total budget for originals is “really healthy.”

She added: “We think they do have to have a different sensibility to what you might imagine you’d find on ITV or on BBC One. We’re looking at casting British actors that are of an international scale. What goes with that is big-ticket budgets.”

Until this pipeline of original shows is available, BritBox will experiment with premiering episodes of Midsomer Murders before they air on ITV. The streamer will also host acquisitions, such as Australian cable network Foxtel’s gothic drama series Lambs Of God, starring Emmy-winning actress Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Essie Davis (The Babadook).

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