You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

BritBox: the one-stop streaming service for classic British TV

TechRadar logo TechRadar 19/07/2019 Henry St Leger
© Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

There are plenty of options for TV streaming these days – but if you're hankering after some good old British television, BritBox may be what you need.

BritBox is an online portal for British TV boxsets and original programming, bringing all sorts of modern and legacy TV content from the UK’s biggest broadcasters. Not quite a Netflix killer, but could certainly become a potential disruptor that brings together decades worth of beloved British television.

First envisaged as a way of exporting classic British TV to the US and Canada, the streaming service is soon launching in the UK too – despite there being various catch-up services for BBC and ITV content already.

Read more: BritBox to launch in autumn 2019 (The i)

But there's still plenty to recommend BritBox, with a massive back catalogue of British shows like Doctor Who, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Gavin & Stacey, Coronation Street, or even ITV's Love Island. If you're in the UK, some of these are available via the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub catch-up services already – while Netflix and Amazon license a handful of BBC shows – but for those of you in the US and Canada, it may well be the only way to get your hands on these classic TV series.

Here we run you through what to expect from BritBox, what a subscription will cost, and why you might consider signing up for the service.

What is BritBox?

a hand holding a remote control: Can BritBox carve a niche in a landscape full of Netflix-style platforms? (Image Credit: Netflix) © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Can BritBox carve a niche in a landscape full of Netflix-style platforms? (Image Credit: Netflix) The brainchild of two British broadcasters, ITV and the BBC, BritBox is an online, ad-free, subscription-based streaming service designed to export British programming beyond the UK’s shores – and soon in its UK homeland too.

It’s no secret that viewing habits have been shifting online, with the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and the like eating away at viewing numbers for traditional broadcasters. Both ITV and the BBC have their own online catch-up services already – ITV hub and BBC iPlayer – but joining forces for a larger online offering is likely the best way to ensure their long-term survival in a fiercely competitive online market.

Speaking to BBC News, former BBC executive Ashley Highfield suggested BritBox wasn't "something that's going to take over from Netflix. It's probably going to rub alongside."

Slideshow: Twenty Netflix original TV shows that are better than Stranger Things, critics say (Business Insider)

Though BritBox originally launched only in the US and Canada, we recently learned of plans to bring BritBox to UK viewers too. BBC and ITV are finalizing legal agreements for a UK version of the service to come this year, according to an announcement the BBC made in February.

It’s not clear what this means for ITV Hub and iPlayer, though we could imagine the services being folded into the larger BritBox platform going forward. The announcement above also hinted that other UK broadcasters were likely to cooperate on Britbox in the future.

It's worth noting that a similar project was shuttered by the UK's Competition Commission in 2008, after concerns of how powerful a combined streaming platform for the UK's major broadcasters would be. So for BritBox to come to the UK, there may be stipulations that it doesn't roll up too many catch-up services under one banner.

So does my country get BritBox?

If you’re reading this, probably! BritBox launched in the United States in 2017, and come to Canada the following year.

As BritBox initially intended as a way to export British TV shows outside the country, it’s only recently we caught word of plans to bring the platform to the UK – with a hesitant release window of October-December 2019.

We expect that BritBox will roll out to other territories in the future, to limit the BBC’s reliance on Netflix and competing streaming services to showcase their content globally.

How do I access BritBox?

For watching BritBox on a web browser, all you have to do is head to www.britbox.com. You’ll be invited to sign up for a seven-day free trial before payments start being taken monthly from your account (though so far only in the US and Canada).

There’s also a dedicated BritBox app on Google Play and the App Store for streaming to your phone, tablet, or computer. You’ll find the BritBox app on Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku streaming devices too.

US subscribers to Amazon Prime Video can also subscribe to BritBox via Amazon Channels.

How much does BritBox cost?

Ruth Jones, Mathew Horne, James Corden posing for the camera: The cast of Gavin & Stacey (Image Credit: BBC) © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. The cast of Gavin & Stacey (Image Credit: BBC) US pricing for a BritBox subscription is $6.99 a month, around the cost of a Basic Netflix subscription.

The UK service will cost £5.99, matching the price of Netflix's Basic Plan, but with HD streaming instead of just standard definition. Paying for a TV license fee (as you would for BBC iPlayer) won't cover the subscription cost, though.

It's worth noting that the BBC only owns 10% of BritBox, with ITV owning the remaining 90% – so we expect the Beeb to net smaller returns than its partner from viewer subscriptions.

What shows are actually on BritBox?

a man holding a microphone: Expect legacy seasons of Doctor Who, though newer episodes may take a while to land on BritBox. (Image Credit: BBC) © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Expect legacy seasons of Doctor Who, though newer episodes may take a while to land on BritBox. (Image Credit: BBC) BritBox combines the best of BBC and ITV programming, including staple soap operas, such as Coronation Street, Eastenders, Holby City and Casualty – new episodes of which appear on the service within 24 hours of initial broadcast.

The real draw is legacy content on the service, with thousands of hours of television from British tentpole programmes like Gavin & Stacey, Poirot, Miss Marple, Fawlty Towers, The Office, and Absolutely Fabulous. BritBox also has hundreds of episodes of Doctor Who dating back to the 60s, for those of you not sated by recent seasons.

The BBC’s Director General Tony Hall clarified BritBox wouldn’t replace iPlayer – the BBC’s online catch-up service, which is supported by a license fee rather than a monthly subscription – though there will undoubtedly be an overlap in the programming available.

Slideshow: The most famous business started the year you were born (lovemoney)

We expect BritBox to mainly host legacy content, with newer shows and programmes appearing after spending some time on the ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer catch-up services. This BBC News article on the announcement confirmed that "Many ITV and BBC programmes will move on to BritBox after they have been broadcast on TV and fallen off the broadcasters' own catch-up services."

BBC iPlayer currently can only host content for 30 days after broadcast, though it is appealing to Ofcom to extend this to a whole year instead.

Should I sign up for BritBox?

If you’re in the US and want a proper look at iconic British programming from over the years, BritBox is a relatively cheap subscription service with plenty to keep you busy. It doesn’t have the variety of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, but you won’t get a similar concentration of British gems anywhere else.

And if you’re in the UK? It’ll be hard to tell until the service launches this year and we can see how the content library differs from BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. But at first glance, it seems like a sensible proposition for viewers who don’t pay a license fee for terrestrial channels but don’t want to miss out on the best of the BBC and ITV’s programming.

If you already pay a UK license fee , you may well want BritBox to access content once they've dropped off these catch-up services. but keep in mind you are effectively doubling up your expenses to access the same content in various places.

Slideshow: A brief history of how Netflix achieved world domination (StarsInsider)

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from TechRadar

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon