With streaming TV taking the UK market by storm, veteran broadcast companies like ITV don’t want to get left behind. In light of that, ITV Chief Executive Carolyn McCall is saying UK broadcasters have to build streaming video services that will compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – before it’s too late.
According to an Ofcom report published earlier this year, in the first quarter of 2018 there were 15.4 million UK subscribers to one (or more) of the popular TV streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and NOW TV. Old-school cable/satellite services had only 15.1 million subscribers in the UK during the same time period.
Speaking with The Guardian, the ITV chief says the broadcaster is working on a subscription-based Video on Demand service. “I think the window is closing”, McCall says of UK broadcasters’ ability to compete with the US streaming giants. “We know it’s not going to be easy. We know it’s not slam dunk. If we don’t do it we will never do it. We have to take the plunge.”
ITV already offers the free “ITV Hub” service, which also includes a premium, paid tier that allows you to watch ITV’s programmes without adverts. However, the ITV Hub is mostly a catch-up service, and its back-catalogue of ITV shows is quite limited.
Meanwhile, popular ITV shows are being sold and streamed on Netflix – something McCall says will stop with an ITV streaming service in place. “Love Island is a good example”, she tells The Guardian. “Love Island series one and two went on Netflix this summer before Love Island four started on ITV2… Would we do that deal again when we are building our own service, it is unlikely we would sell those rights.”
Earlier this year, it was reported that ITV is trying to create a streaming service along with fellow UK broadcasters The BBC and Channel 4, but it seems those talks have failed, at least so far. With with the three broadcasting bodies operating on such different terms, McCall is sceptical about their ability to work together on a Netflix competitor.
With Netflix and Amazon upping their game and producing British content alongside their US-centric shows, it remains to be seen whether ITV can still compete.