British audiences have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of The Winter King on ITVX, the streaming platform from ITV – and it’s finally coming in December.
This historical fiction series is set in a fierce fifth-century Britain, and follows the rise of Arthur Pendragon.
However, despite this being a major launch for ITVX, there’s a major twist: the series has already aired in its entirety in the US.
This delayed release raises questions about the effectiveness of ITVX’s strategy: In this day and age, when every big show is talked about endlessly on social media, is it wise to launch a flagship show after the Americans (and social media) have already watched it (and discussed it)?
The World of ‘The Winter King’
Set in the tumultuous fifth century, The Winter King TV series presents a gritty and realistic take on the Arthurian legends.
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles novels, the series reimagines the Arthurian legends in Post-Roman Dark Age Britain.
Starring Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Fades) as Arthur Pendragon, the series portrays him not as a destined king but as an exiled warlord’s illegitimate son.
The show is grounded in historical realism, focusing on the political and social dynamics of the time.
The narrative, shown largely through the eyes of Derfel, a Saxon warrior portrayed by Stuart Campbell, offers a nuanced view of the characters, especially in its depiction of Arthur’s complex relationship with his father, King Uther (Eddie Marsan), and the priestess Nimue (Ellie James).
The cast also features notable names like Nathaniel Martello-White, Daniel Ings, and Simon Merrells, promising a high-quality production.
The Winter King has been well-received in the US, evidenced by its impressive 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing).
Critics have lauded its unique approach to the well-known legend, its compelling storytelling, and the impressive ensemble cast.
Delayed Gratification Or Missed Opportunity?
The Winter King is set to make its highly anticipated UK debut on ITVX on December 21, 2023, with the first five episodes.
The remaining five episodes will follow a week later, on December 27.
This release schedule might have been a cause for celebration, but the fact that the series has already been available in the US for months (it aired between August and November int he US) casts a shadow over its UK premiere.
In an age where spoilers flood social media and discussion forums within hours of a show’s release, the delayed UK premiere could dampen the excitement for British viewers.
Unfortunately, UK audiences are already used to some shows arriving late (if at all) – with The Walking Dead’s recent spin-off shows, for example, being a case in point.
However, this usually happens with American shows. The Winter King, while being co-produced with MGM, is not only a very British show – but was presented as one of ITVX’s flagship shows even before the service launched.
Therefore, bringing it to our screens months after it finished airing elsewhere in the world, feels somewhat antiquated.
Furthermore, the the staggered release on ITVX (5 episodes first, then another 5), while providing a semblance of anticipation, is also a disappointing decision, in a world where binge-watching is the new normal (and, again – in a world where all 10 episodes have already aired).
It’s still unknown at this point if – and when – The Winter King will air on ITV’s linear channels. For the time being, it’s going to be a streaming-exclusive show on ITVX.
ITVX, the new kid on the UK’s streaming block, launched one year ago, in December 2022. The service, which took over from the ITV Hub app, is free but comes with adverts.
It aims to compete with major players like Netflix and Disney+. At launch, ITVX rolled out with over 10,000 hours of on-demand content, including 35 flagship shows, over 200 series, and upwards of 250 films, and now shows and films are being added every month.
ITVX also offers a Premium tier for £5.99/month or £59.99/year. The Premium subscription not only removes the ads but also gives users access to the BritBox library, which is loaded with over 4,000 hours of classic British content, as well as picks from Studio Canal Presents.
ITVX is available on most streaming devices and Smart TVs sold in the UK.
However, there’s a long list of devices that don’t support ITV’s streaming app – and likely won’t ever support it – from popular Freeview boxes like the Humax FVP-5000t, to Freesat boxes like the Humax Hb1000s, and older Smart TVs from Samsung and other manufacturers.
More Content Coming To ITVX In December 2023
ITVX is set to enhance its content library further in December 2023, offering a variety of shows and films in time for the festive period.
Starting from December 1, viewers can enjoy a selection of feature films, including classics like the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Jackie Chan’s The Tuxedo, along with iconic movies like Tootsie, Eat Pray Love, Almost Famous, and Pulp Fiction
In mid-December, viewers will get Platform 7, a haunting thriller about a woman who, after witnessing a shocking event, uncovers a connection between her life and the incident.
The 14th of December sees the launch of Something Undone, a psychological suspense series focusing on a Canadian couple investigating a family slaughter in the 1980s for their true crime podcast
Additionally, ITVX will introduce My Mom, Your Dad US, an American reality dating series, on December 21.
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