The only constant in streaming is change. Once upon a time, Netflix had all the TV series and movies from multiple outside production studios. Now, it is losing the last of the Disney and Warner Bros. Pictures vaults to Disney+ and HBO Max, respectively, while NBC/Universal and Paramount consider pulling their shows for Peacock and Paramount+. The same is true in the more niche streaming world as well. Line of Duty initially started as one of the many BBC broadcast shows housed in an uncategorized pile on Hulu until it reached the point of moving to BBC One. Then it became an Acorn TV exclusive. Now, ahead of Season 6's debut stateside, it's moving again, this time to BritBox.
Line of Duty has only gotten more valuable as time has gone on, not unlike Peaky Blinders over at Netflix. The series started as a smaller time crime show, building an audience until it became a ratings powerhouse for the BBC. Along the way, American audiences were alerted to it, especially when creator Jed Mercurio's other hit show, Bodyguard, became a surprise hit for Netflix. Season 5 saw record audiences in the U.K., and a new home in America, on Acorn TV, which also gathered up the exclusive rights to Season 1-4.
Season 6 should have been Acorn TV's next big push after Bloodlands, another crime thriller from Mecurio, via his Hat Trick Productions company. But it seems not to be. With Line of Duty pulling in the biggest audiences the show has ever seen for BBC One, ITV Studios, which helps produce the series, has renegotiated. The exclusive streaming rights in the U.S. for all future seasons will now move to BBC Studios and ITV's joint venture, BritBox. The first four seasons have already turned up on BritBox. But don't panic, Acorn subscribers doing catch-up, all episodes are also still on Acorn TV, along with Season 5. The exclusivity only extends to Season 6 and points beyond.
When talking about streaming, I've said ITV and BBC Studios have yet to realize the potential goldmine they have with BritBox. Initially created as a way for ex-pats and anglophiles to legally watch BBC and ITV programming, the two networks combined have a large monopoly on some of the best programs out of the U.K. If the two were to go full Disney+ and pull all their content from the various streaming services they bolster, from Netflix and HBO Max to Peacock and AMC+, the streamer could become a significant player U.S. market.
It remains to be seen if this move with Line of Duty (and some of BritBox's other original series, like the PBS co-production Magpie Murders) is a sign of the streamer taking steps towards a more consolidated streaming future. It could be just a one-time move to seize the rights to one of its most popular U.K. shows.
Line of Duty Season 6 is currently airing in the U.K. and is expected to debut stateside in mid-May once the seven-episode run completes on BBC One.