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BBC Plans to Bow OTT Video Service in the U.S.

18 Sep, 2015

Unnamed service would feature programming not airing on BBC America and other networks

BBC wants to launch an over-the-top video platform in the United States in 2016, Tony Hall, director general of the venerable broadcaster, told attendees at the Royal Television Society Convention in London.

The BBC, which has operated the iPlayer broadband-enabled platform for years, in June shuttered an international app of iPlayer that operated in Europe, Australia and Canada. Media reports say the app never launched in the U.S. due to alleged pay-TV operator threats about dropping BBC America.

Regardless, Hall believes a U.S. OTT video venture could help the BBC up global revenue as much as 15%, while at the same time not undermining BBC America or other distribution channels.

“We’re launching a new OTT video service in America offering BBC fans programs they wouldn’t otherwise get — showcasing British actors, our program-makers — and celebrating our culture,” Hall said.

Such a venture could provide interesting challenges to Netflix and RLJ Entertainment.

Netflix developed its pioneering subscription streaming service in part due to British-centric fare, including recent shows such as “Happy Valley,” “Broadchurch,” “Call the Midwife,” “The Fall,” “Luther,” “Last Tango in Halifax” and “Sherlock,” among others.

Separately, RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn TV was one the first non-Netflix SVOD services in the U.S. delivering British mystery, drama, comedy and documentaries, including “Doc Martin,” “Accused,” “Amnesia,” “Blue Murder,” “The Brokenwood Mysteries,” “The Driver” and “Foyle’s War.” The $4.99 monthly service currently has about 150,000 subscribers.

Regardless, Hall said BBC intends to expand its global reach, including launching the online BBC Store in October.

“Over the next few years, we intend to work with global partners to grow [BBC] Worldwide further, taking advantage of the demand for British programming and new digital opportunities,” he said.

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