Both the BBC and ITV have really been trying to push BritBox – the online home of classic UK shows and films designed to help traditional broadcast channels survive as the entertainment landscape shifts to a streaming-based model.
I’ve spent some time with BritBox, checking out the best shows and movies on the library and comparing their account offerings to rivals, and I have some thoughts.
If you'd like to see a side-by-side comparison of BritBox against the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV, there's a full guide to the best streaming services that you can check out.
Why pay for shows that are already free in the UK?
This is my biggest gripe with BritBox right now. There is currently some cross-promotion of certain shows that are available on iPlayer and the ITV Hub - including Gavin & Stacey, Cold Feet and more. There's a mix of different episodes and seasons across various streaming channels, and it's extremely annoying to not have all the programmes in one place, especially when you take into consideration the TV licenses that people pay for BBC content.
Though BritBox claims not to be doubling up content (iPlayer has priority over content for one year before a show goes to BritBox), it seems unfair to pay for past episodes of shows that used to be available for free, or still air on UK channels like Dave or Drama via Freeview.
Let’s also not forget that some British shows like Fleabag, Absolutely Fabulous The Trip and Bodyguard are either exclusively available on another platform, or are cross-promoted elsewhere. Calling BritBox ‘the home of British television’ just simply isn’t true right now. Maybe once the platform gets first dibs over British broadcast shows, we’ll see a different story.
However, things are brighter across the pond. Whilst iPlayer and the ITV hub are free to watch here in the UK, it’s not quite the same in the USA. Reruns of classic British TV aren’t as easy to come by, which suddenly makes BritBox a hell of a lot more attractive for American subscribers.
Pricing out rivals, but still not low enough
At £5.99/US$6.99 per month on a rolling contract, and US$69.99 for the year in the USA, BritBox comes in at exactly the same price as Disney Plus. If we compared both of these services side-by-side, it’s no contest. Disney Plus has more exclusives, more blockbusters and 4K content that outpace BritBox by miles.
In my opinion, BritBox would be more of a compelling option if it were the same price as Apple TV+, which is £4.99/US$4.99 per month. Though Apple has much less on offer, everything on there is current, ultra-HD and original content, so both platforms more or less even out in worth.
However, I can’t deny that the 30 day free-trial is by far the most generous of any streaming platform - though this is only available for UK subscribers.
Channel 4 may change the game
At the moment, BritBox is still being held back by one major player. Channel 4 will be joining the service in Spring 2020, bringing with it recently broadcast shows and select movies from Film4.
This may change up the type of genres that BritBox currently covers. Currently, the service is pretty good in offering classic comedies, vintage films and generally appealing to older generations. When it comes to current TV and well-known films, the service is lagging behind rivals.
It’ll be interesting to see how much Channel 4’s addition to the platform expands the BritBox library, and these additions may change whether or not BritBox is a worthy streaming subscription overall.
So, what’s the verdict?
As things stand, with no Channel 4 content, cross-promotion of shows and a limited library, BritBox is not really worth the money for UK subscribers, especially on the grounds that some shows are still accessible on Freeview terrestrial for no extra cost.
US viewers may find getting hold of classic British television much harder, so for them BritBox may be a nice additional streaming service to test out on a monthly basis.
As a contender to Netflix, Amazon Prime or even Disney Plus, BritBox still can’t stand toe-to-toe. Maybe in a year, the situation may look a little different, depending on what exclusives are secured.