In an effort to better compete with the big US streaming services, the major UK broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are reportedly in talks to create a new single streaming app that will consolidate content from all of them.
According to The Telegraph, the discussions are being hosted by Freeview, in hopes of making it easier for users to find content from all the UK broadcasters – as well as create one single big app that can compete against giants like Netflix and Disney+.
Freeview, first established in 2002, is the United Kingdom’s digital terrestrial television platform. It is operated by a joint venture of the BBC, Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva (who is stepping down this March).
Freeview provides free-to-air TV channels and radio stations. Some of the channels can only be watched via a Freeview aerial (see the ones we recommend), and a Freeview box (see our recommendations) connected to that aerial and to your TV.
The major broadcasters, however, also offer their own streaming apps, where you can watch both live TV and catch-up content via broadband and a supported streaming device (or a smart TV).
Currently, each of the major UK broadcasters has its own streaming app: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and My5.
Users then have to register and sign on with separate credentials to each of these streaming apps (with some of the apps also offering an ad-free paid tier, such as ITV Hub+ and All4+).
Freeview also offers its own mobile streaming app (of sorts), which brings the major broadcasters together – but only as a mobile TV guide. When the user wants to actually watch something, he is transferred, again, to the broadcaster’s own app – where he needs a separate login.
Some Freeview boxes also support Freeview Play, which is a similar service – it consolidates TV listings and recommendations from all the major broadcasters, but when you actually want to watch something – you’re taken to that broadcaster’s own app.
The One British Service To Rule Them All?
According to The Telegraph’s article, the big broadcasters plan to offer a streaming service/app that will let viewers use a single sign-on.
That app will then bring together content from all the participating broadcasters, so a user might see recommendations for a drama from the BBC, alongside a reality TV programme from ITV, and so forth.
When a user then wants to watch one of these programmes – he will be able to do so directly via the single app, without the need to re-login to BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub, for example.
This will also let broadcasters consolidate information about the users of the app, and improve content recommendations across their united content libraries.
It’s worth mentioning that ITV and the BBC already have their own combined streaming service, BritBox (where ITV owns 90% and the BBC owns 10%).
BritBox offers content from ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – but most of the programmes and films are older “library” shows from the broadcasters’ archives.
BritBox doesn’t offer immediate catch-up content or live programming – for that, you still need to go to each broadcaster’s own app.
Will A Single Streaming Service Be Enough?
With the American streaming giants sweeping over the UK TV market, the local broadcasters have their work cut out for them.
While content from the BBC, ITV and the rest is still very popular, most viewers (especially young ones) know they’re likely to find a bigger library if they just go to Netflix or one of its competitors.
If, however, a single app will offer viewers content from the entire vast library that the British broadcasters are creating – it could be, if not a game-changer, then at least a major step up for user convenience and content discovery.
Freeview and ITV declined to comment at this time.