ITV this morning announced the launch of ITVX, a new hybrid streaming which will essentially unite the broadcaster’s existing ad-supported video on-demand (AVOD) platform ITV Hub and BritBox, the subscription (SVOD) service it co-owns with the BBC.
Perhaps the most significant part of the announcement is that ITV says it will premiere “much of its new content” on ITVX months before it’s aired on ITV’s linear channels. While it’s not clear exactly what proportion of content will appear on ITVX first, it certainly looks like the broadcaster will favour the new streaming service for its most premium content. The company announced a host of new series which will air first on ITVX: A Spy Among Friends, starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce, Nolly starring Helena Bonham Carter, Confessions of Frannie Langton starring Karla-Simone Spence, Sophie Cookson and Patrick Martins, Lenny Henry’s six part drama The Little Birds and Litvinenko starring David Tennant.
Meanwhile the vast majority of content which doesn’t air on ITVX first – ITV says “all the drama and comedy ITV commissions” and “the majority of reality series” – will appear on the platform as soon as the first episode has appeared on ITV’s linear channels. Presumably for these shows viewers will be able to binge watch the whole of a series on the day it premieres, before later episodes air on broadcast TV.
ITV has referenced the idea of going digital-first before – now it appears that through ITVX, the broadcaster is making serious moves to prioritise its CTV offering over its traditional linear channels.
Another interesting aspect of the new service is that ITVX will also host themed free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels alongside live streams of its regular channels. ITV last month started dipping its toes into FAST, announcing a partnership with Samsung TV to launch themed channels on Samsung TV Plus. And the broadcaster clearly believes in the format, planning 20 FAST channels for ITVX’s launch.
ITV says ITVX will launch later this year, with pricing for the subscription tier yet to be announced. It’s not clear whether BritBox will continue to exist as a standalone service once ITVX launched.
A step change to ITV’s approach
ITVX on the face of it simply brings together ITV Hub and BritBox into one unified platform. But the company says the change represents a “step change to its traditional approach”.
Aside from the digital-first airing of content, ITVX will rebalance the trade-off between advertising and subscription fees for consumers. Previously audiences would have to pay two separate fees for ad-free content on ITV Hub and access to BritBox. Now that equation is simplified – paying a fee gets rid of the majority of ads and provides access to extra content.
And ITV is adding extra content into the paid subscription tier. A paid subscription to ITVX will include shows from the BBC, Channel 4, and Channel 5 which are currently available on BritBox, as well as “a growing range of partner content”. ITV has already announced a content partnership with WarnerMedia, though its not clear if these shows will be exclusive to paid subscribers or not.
Thus ITV appears to be more actively encouraging subscriptions as a strong alternative to free ad-supported streaming.
But that’s not at all to say that ITVX will represent a de-prioritisation of advertising. Conversely ITV CEO Carolyn McCall said the move is in large part designed to cater to advertisers.
“We are supercharging our streaming business, fundamentally shifting our focus to think digital first, as well as optimising our broadcast channels, by continuing to attract unrivalled mass audiences,” said McCall. “In doing so we are responding to changing viewing habits, but also the evolving needs from our advertisers. This will enable ITV to continue to be both commercial viewers and advertisers’ first choice.”
And ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment Kevin Lygo added that ITV’s linear channels won’t be neglected either.
“Our broadcast channels are very important to what we do, and we are still focused on delivering what ITV does better than anyone in commercial TV – creating programmes that bring audiences together – in-the-moment, in their millions, for that shared viewing, scheduled TV experience,” said Lygo. “However we know we have to deliver our programmes to as many people as possible in all the ways they want to watch them, and going forward viewers will now see a wide array of shows premiering first on ITVX, which is the cornerstone of ITV’s digital acceleration.”