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Bullish About British TV

BritBox, a service from the BBC and ITV focused on television from the United Kingdom, landed on U.S. shores on March 7.

BritBox, which sells for $6.99 per month, joins a growing group of specialized subscription video-on-demand services that are taking shape amid the ongoing consumer shift toward binge-viewing and over-the-top platforms. It’s booting up with “thousands” of hours or programming, including many exclusives alongside a key “Now” category that offers certain soaps and other British TV shows as soon as 24 hours after their U.K. broadcast premiere.

Next TV editor Jeff Baumgartner caught up with Soumya Sriraman, president of BritBox, about the launch, how the service aims to differentiate itself and what else is on deck. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation.

NTV: Why is now the right time to bring Brit-Box to the U.S.?
Soumya Sriraman: If you asked me this question two years back, I’d have said, we’re not there. At this moment in time I think people understand what an OTT service is. They don’t think that this [BritBox] is BBC America or they don’t think this is BBC from the U.K. They understand that this is a service from two powerhouses in the U.K. … There’s a better understanding of these services and how they can be accessed and what can be viewed.

NTV: This service is just getting off the ground, but can you talk at all about your near-term goals for BritBox?
We say this internally, and I feel pretty confident, that we will probably be the biggest SVOD launch this year. We are feeling good about consumers are responding to us … and are asking about this service.

We’ve also seen the Netflixes and Amazons of the world have gone away from certain kinds of programs. That makes it perfect for us to be the home [for this kind of content].

NTV: What are you doing to differentiate in this SVOD market amid competitors like Acorn TV?
I think there are a few things that will give us [differentiation]. We’ve got the programming that will be coming in 24 hours after the U.K. That will set us apart. And we are brought to you by BBC and ITV, two of the largest broadcasters in the U.K., giving us access to an incredible amount of content and an incredible amount of heritage and pedigree.

Also, most of the content on this service will be exclusive to the service. This is the only place people can find most of this programming.

NTV: Can you talk a bit about your distribution strategy? Will it be strictly direct to consumer, or are you looking to take advantage of distribution partners like Amazon and even MVPDs that are starting to integrate OTT services on set-tops?
We debated this a lot when I started putting the business plans together two or three years back. The one thing that we believe is that it’s very important for us to know who the consumer is. How that manifests itself, whether that’s through a third party or direct to consumer, we think that those are all options that we should be open to. British programming is very unique and we want to make sure that we’re serving you … the best that we can. And whatever platforms can help facilitate that for us, we’re absolutely going to be partnering with them.

NTV: What’s your sense on the demographic that BritBox will appeal to?
The great thing about having access to what BBC and ITV have is that … they have to appeal to a broad range of ages and demographics. Being part of that family means that we have the opportunity to appeal to a wider range. But I think the other great thing that’s happening with OTT in the past two years is that it’s become more accessible in terms of age ranges. These days, I don’t know if you would find nary a 40-year-old who doesn’t have a Netflix or an Amazon [app] on their devices.

NTV: How is 4K factoring into your plans?
It’s part of our road map. But we’re focused right now on [offering] the best scripted content, the best content that we can serve up the day after air. If that happens to be 4K, then so be it.