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BBC wants another stab at a ‘UK Netflix’ with UKTV break-up

AUNTIE BEEB is said to be close to taking control to half of the UKTV network with an eye on using the rights to create a “British Netflix”.

Just weeks after a tiff over video-on-demand saw UKTV temporarily withdrawn from Virgin Media, industry rumours are rife that the BBC plans to use the rights to its own archive currently held by UKTV.

UKTV made around £90m last year but paid the BBC over £50m for rights. If these reverted to BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the corporation, it would make a ‘British Netflix’ more viable, with the new platform carrying content from BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

This was previously attempted under the codename “Project Kangaroo” but was blocked by the Competition Commission who claimed it would “hurt competition”. Kangaroo was ad-supported, but it is more likely that this would be a subscription model like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

A watered down version of Kangaroo was rolled out, briefly under the name See-Saw, before dying in 2011.  

A ‘British Netflix’ platform already exists in the USA, where ‘Britbox’ offers a range of programming from the main UK broadcasters.

Any such move towards a UK version would have been made possible by a get-out clause in the UKTV contract, triggered when co-owner Scripps was swallowed by Discovery, but the BBC couldn’t find a partner and couldn’t afford the buyout on its own.

Now it appears that the two companies are close to an agreement to break up the network of ten channels which was created in 1997 when the Corporation formed an alliance with Flextech, (now part of Sky) to launch channels aimed primarily the troubled ONdigital platform using the existing UK Gold (now Gold) and UK Living (now Sky Witness) as its basis.

No details have been released as to which channels will go to which broadcaster in the breakup, but it seems likely that those that rely on BBC content, such as Gold, will suit Auntie’s purposes. A BBC Board meeting later in the month is likely to be the trigger for any agreement and subsequent announcement.

The BBC cannot show advertising on its public service channels and as such ownership would pass to commercial arm BBC Studios (formerly BBC Worldwide).

It is highly unlikely that the broadcasters would withdraw their own services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4, but they may choose concentrate more on catch-up services, leaving the new joint venture to roll out the wider programme libraries. μ

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Source : Inquirer

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