BritBox US Now Wholly Owned by the BBC

The BBC News Graphic that says Oh Dear, What Now

Telly Visions Breaking News Graphic

BritBox was initially launched at the beginning of March 2017, as a joint project between the BBC and ITV. At the time, it was the first streaming service that promised to bring British programming straight out of the U.K. from the BBC and ITV directly to Americans without them needing to illegally VPN the BBC iPlayer or ITV's streaming service of the era. That was the entire point of launching the service for the two networks, which were both quite aware of how much extra traffic was illegally coming from across the pond.

Unfortunately, as with most streaming services, the initial offering did not live up to the hype. Sure, BritBox had the entire Doctor Who collection from 1963-1989 and a whole lot of Red Dwarf, but it wasn't bringing over the BBC iPlayer wholesale, nor was it transferring ITV's primary library. It couldn't, as most of the popular stuff was already tied up in years-long streaming contracts elsewhere, highly lucrative contracts. What straight from the U.K. series it did have was the stuff other networks didn't want. It soon found itself at a disadvantage in the American market with no original content. At the same time, British consumers demanded to know why Americans had a BritBox, and they did not.

It's been seven tumultuous years since then, as BritBox UK was launched, only for ITV to buy out the BBC's half and fold the entire enterprise into ITVX. (After all, Brits don't need a BritBox. They have one, it's their telly.) But just as the streaming service rounds to its seventh anniversary, turnabout has become fair play as the BBC announced today, March 1, 2024, that it has bought out ITV from BritBox International and now wholly owns the British branded streamer in the eight countries where it is available — the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

For those who are hoping this will turn BritBox into iPlayer America, no, that's not in the cards, any more than it was the first time BritBox launched. The BBC still has most of its biggest series tied up in deals with other, better-known and better-heeled streamers with a larger audience reach. It cannot afford to pull those shows out of those deals; it couldn't during the height of the streaming wars when everyone was building their own streaming verticals full of proprietary content, and they're not going to start now when that party is long over.

In point of fact, ITV's spin on this is that it wants to pull out of the deal because it can no longer afford to focus on BritBox when it has ITVX to water and feed the never-ending gaping maw of content churn. The BBC's payout of £255M ($322M) to ITV for their share of BritBox International is probably needed to keep feeding the beast with prestige series. (The amount is estimated to be the largest ever single transaction for the BBC’s commercial wing.)

As for the BBC's plans with what to do with BritBox, so far, the plan is to continue what has been a successful model these past couple of years -- a combination of hit BBC series, hit ITV series, and BritBox Originals, most of which are spinoffs created from shows that are hits on either BBC or ITV, and all of which are co-produced in conjunction with one of the two networks. A BBC spokesperson promised that “BritBox International will continue to commission from a wide range of UK indies, as well as BBC Studios and ITV, in order to bring the best in British entertainment to international subscribers all in one place. There are no plans to change the programming or acquisition strategy.”

BritBox International CEO Reemah Sakaan will exit the streaming service once the transition period has ended. The service will then fall under the auspicious of Rebecca Glashow, BBC Studios Global Media & Streaming CEO, with new leadership to be named in the coming days. The BBC Studios Global Media & Streaming division it joins already includes, BBC Select, and BBC Podcast Premium. Sakaan said in. the press release that doubled as her farewell statement that the “historic deal recognizes the strategic vision and creativity that has built the business over the past seven years.”

How else this plan will alter BritBox remains to be seen, but as of right now, American viewers can rest easy knowing that nothing will change in the coming weeks, and not without a rollout that will get a lot of press play. For right now, just tune in to Murder is Easy and mark your calendars for Time Season 2 at the end of the month. Keep Calm and Carry On.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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