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BritBox: ITV and BBC set out plans for new streaming service

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Clockwise from top left: Gavin & Stacey, Love Island, Victoria and Happy ValleyImage copyright
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Clockwise from top left: Gavin & Stacey, Love Island, Victoria and Happy Valley will be on BritBox

Shows like Love Island, Gavin & Stacey, Gentleman Jack and Broadchurch will be on ITV and the BBC’s streaming service BritBox when it launches this year.

The broadcasters are joining forces to set up the subscription service in the UK as a rival to the likes of Netflix.

It will cost £5.99 per month in HD, launching between October and the end of December.

New programmes will also be made specially for BritBox, with the first arriving next year.

Other existing series to be made available will include Victoria, Happy Valley, Les Miserables, The Office and Benidorm.

How will BritBox work?

The monthly fee will cover multiple screens and devices, “which is less than other streaming services”, a statement said.

Many ITV and BBC programmes will move on to BritBox after they have been broadcast on TV and fallen off the broadcasters’ own catch-up services – BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. The BBC is soon expected to get permission from regulator Ofcom to keep shows on iPlayer for a year as standard.

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Media captionWhat is BritBox?

As well as recent shows, it will also be the home of thousands of hours of classic British comedies, dramas and documentaries.

Not all BBC and ITV programmes will automatically go on BritBox, though.

Many are made by independent production companies, who own the rights and might instead sell them to a service like Netflix after their TV broadcasts, as has previously happened with hits like Peaky Blinders. Some BBC and ITV shows that are already on Netflix, such as Happy Valley, will move to Britbox – but, again, it will depend on who owns the rights.

The BBC and Netflix will also carry on co-producing programmes together as a way of sharing costs, especially for big-budget dramas. But BBC director general Tony Hall said BritBox was “the prime place in which we want our material to end up”.

How does the price compare with other services?

  • BritBox – £5.99 for HD viewing and multi-screen viewing
  • Netflix – £5.99 for basic package rising to £8.99 for a standard plan, including HD on two-screens. Ultra HD and four screen simultaneous viewing is £11.99.
  • Amazon Prime – £5.99 on up to three screens simultaneously.
  • Now TV – £7.99 for entertainment pass, with optional extras – Cinema Pass (£11.99), Sports (£33.99), Kids (£3.99)
  • YouTube Premium – £11.99

Haven’t viewers paid for classic BBC programmes once?

Asked why viewers should pay an extra charge to watch shows originally funded by the licence fee, Lord Hall compared BritBox with releasing a programme on DVD.

“That was the BBC saying, there’s a secondary market – you pay for content after we’ve shown it,” he said. “This is just a modern-day version of that, and an even better version of that, because it used to be infuriating when you’d seen a programme on the BBC and you couldn’t get hold of the DVD.”

Any money the corporation makes will be put back in to programme-making, he said. “I think this is wins all round for the licence fee payers.”

The new shows to be made specifically for the new platform will be exclusive to BritBox, and the annual budget for original programming will be in the tens of millions of pounds. In comparison, Netflixreportedly spent $12bn (£9.5bn) on programmes last year.

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Broadchurch will be one of the shows on offer

Why are the BBC and ITV doing this?

Normally rivals, the two broadcasters want to get a foothold in a fiercely competitive commercial streaming world against the likes of Netflix, Amazon and NowTV, while Disney+ and AppleTV+ are launching soon.

The BBC and ITV tried to launch something similar a decade ago, but were blocked by regulators. Now they are trying to catch up with their heavyweight competitors.

Netflix has more than 150 million subscribers worldwide – but saw its share price plummet this week, after adding fewer viewers than expected in the last three months, with price rises blamed.

The BBC and ITV launched BritBox in North America in 2017, showing programmes like Midsomer Murders, Poirot and Only Fools and Horses. It now has 650,000 subscribers, which ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said was “exceeding its targets”.

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The BBC, which made a recent adaptation of Les Miserables, will own 10% of BritBox at launch, with ITV controlling 90%

The bottom line is that BritBox is another way to attract eyeballs and to make money from the broadcasters’ back catalogues. Dame Carolyn said the agreement to launch BritBox in the UK was “a milestone moment”.

She said: “Subscription video on demand is increasingly popular with consumers who love being able to watch what they want, when they want to watch it. They are also happy to pay for this ease of access to quality content and so BritBox is tapping into this, and a new revenue stream for UK public service broadcasters.”

ITV will own 90% of the new BritBox service and the BBC’s initial 10% stake could rise to 25% in the future.

Lord Hall insisted that this was not the first step toward changing the BBC from a licence fee-funded organisation to a subscription model. “The fundamental funding for the future must be through the licence fee,” he said.

Will people want to sign up?

Friday’s press release said “viewers will want to subscribe to BritBox because it is uniquely British”, and that there is “growing consumer demand in the UK for streaming services”.

Five million homes have more than one subscription TV service – a growth of 34% per year.

Former BBC executive Ashley Highfield said he thought the monthly price was “about right”, and that BritBox would end up with subscriber numbers in the “low millions”.

He told BBC News: “I don’t think they think it’s something that’s going to take over from Netflix. It’s probably going to rub alongside.”

TV critic Emma Bullimore said she thought asking viewers to pay for mainly old content would be “quite tough”. She told the BBC: “I think in the long term it’s going to be a success. In the short term I think it’s going to be a bit of a struggle.”

She added: “It is bad news for TV fans in that we’re going to have to pay for loads of individual subscriptions. Now, most people have their TV, maybe they have Sky and Netflix – whereas if you have to pay for Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BritBox… it’s going to get quite expensive.”

Broadcasting analyst Tom Harrington from Enders Analysis said there is “certainly a market for great British content”, but that BritBox might be a tough sell.

“You’re going to get a lot of content that you’ve seen before, content that you think you might have paid for before, and content that’s been free for possibly a year on iPlayer,” he said. “Why people sign up for services is usually for new, original content, and there will be a paucity of that on this service.”

Its budget for original programming and technology will not rival those of the US streaming giants, he added. “It’s not going to be a Netflix killer. It won’t take over Amazon in any way. What it will be is an almost niche service alongside those two, at best.”

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From Brexit to Britten – John Humphrys gets weekly Classic FM show

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John Humphrys in the Today studio

John Humphrys will go from grilling politicians to toasting composers after landing a weekly Classic FM show.

The presenter will “share his own stories and reflections on his favourite composers and their music” in a Sunday afternoon slot from 5 January.

Humphrys was known for interrogating political figures on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme until his departure in September after 32 years on the show.

“It’s proof positive that there really is a life after politics,” he said.

“And a rather more inspiring one at that.”

The 76-year-old was given the Classic FM job after sitting in as a guest host on the station’s breakfast show for a week in October.

Classic FM senior managing editor Sam Jackson said there had been a “hugely positive reaction” to Humphrys’ stint.

The move comes despite the fact Humphrys told BBC News two weeks after leaving Today that he had no plans to go back to broadcasting.

“I don’t feel any need to get back in front of a microphone or indeed a camera,” he said. “Perhaps I will, but at the moment no I don’t.”

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Media captionJohn Humphrys: “I don’t feel any need to get back in front of a microphone or indeed a camera”

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Nicky Campbell pays tribute to ‘wonderful mum’

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Nicky Campbell and his mother Sheila

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Nicky Campbell, pictured with his mother Sheila: “She was my adoptive mum. She was my real mum”

BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nicky Campbell has written a heartfelt tribute to his “wonderful” mother Sheila, who has died at the age of 96.

Along with her husband, Frank Campbell, she adopted Nicky as a four-day-old baby in 1961.

Sheila Campbell, a World War Two radar operator who became a social worker, was part of Nicky’s 2007 episode of BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?

She also spoke about being a radar operator on BBC Radio 5 Live in June.

“The day she and Dad adopted me was the day I won the lottery,” he tweeted.

Campbell, who missed presenting Thursday’s edition of 5 Live Breakfast, added that Sheila “doted on her grandchildren and my girls completely adored her. Everyone did.”

His co-host Rachel Burden choked up as she prepared to read out the statement before handing over to her co-host Geoff Lloyd.

Burden then added: “I knew her in the course of my friendship with Nicky developing over the years. She was an incredible woman and I feel really, really privileged to have known her.

“Nicky will be back at work tomorrow because, as he says, his mum would have said, ‘Of course you should be working, it’s the general election results day.’

“So he will be here tomorrow. And we just all want to send all our thoughts on to Nicky and the girls and Tina and all his family today. You’re very, very much in our thoughts.”

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Media captionThis clip is originally from 5 Live Breakfast on Tuesday 5 June 2019.

Earlier this year, Sheila spoke to Campbell on 5 Live Breakfast to talk about her role in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during World War Two. She was presented with a medal of service for her work in 2017.

Stationed at Beachy Head, she helped to guide RAF planes to their targets during the D-Day campaign.

She was proud to have played a part in the invasion, but said she would spend the 75th anniversary “thinking a lot about the lives that were lost on the beaches, and at that time”.

‘So proud’ of his family

Who Do You Think You Are? saw Campbell investigate the roots of his Scottish family, especially his adoptive father Frank, who died in 1996.

He discovered more about his father’s time serving with the Indian army during World War Two – fighting Japanese troops in what has come to be known as “the forgotten war” – and had some shocking revelations about his grandfather’s childhood.

Summing up the experience, he said: “I’m so proud of this extraordinary family I was adopted into. All the stories I’ve heard somehow all contributed to making my dad the most wonderful dad that I could have had.

“It couldn’t have been for me more fascinating, revealing and enlightening. A family of which I am so proud and a dad of which I’m so proud. I just wish he were here to share it.”

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BBC Sound of 2020: Who’s on the longlist?

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A selection of bedroom musicians, indie bands and retro-futuristic soul singers are being tipped for success on BBC Music’s Sound of 2020 list.

The longlist features 10 rising acts, from punk-pop firebrand Yungblud to soul-baring songwriter Celeste.

Other nominees include DIY musician Beabadoobee, who is signed to the same management company as The 1975; and Dublin rock band Inhaler, fronted by Bono’s son Elijah Hewson.

The winner will be revealed in January.

Now in its 18th year, the Sound of… list showcases the hottest new artists for the coming year. Past winners includes Adele, Sam Smith, Years & Years, 50 Cent, Sigrid and, earlier this year, Octavian.

It is voted for by 170 music critics, broadcasters and DJs, as well as former nominees such as Billie Eilish, Lewis Capaldi and Chvrches.

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Celeste has been hotly tipped following the success of her heart-rending single Strange

The 2020 selection sees a retreat from grime and UK rap, which had established a strong presence on the list over the last five years.

In their place are a clutch of female artists who represent the rise of British R&B – from the sweet-but-gritty sounds of Joy Crookes to the soulful poetry of Arlo Parks.

But the one to beat is Celeste, a “shy singer with a star’s voice”, who has already won the Brits’ Rising Star award and been named BBC Music Introducing’s artist of the year.

BBC Music Sound of 2020
Artist Who are they? Key track
Arlo Parks Soulful poet unpicking the anxieties of a generation Cola
Beabadoobee Dreamy, lo-fi bedroom pop If You Want To
Celeste Timeless soul to tug at your heartstrings Strange
Easy Life Genre-bending indie-funk quintet Nightmares
Georgia One-woman dance machine About Work The Dancefloor
Inhaler Shimmering, atmospheric rock anthems My Honest Face
Joesef Self-confessed “emotional sad boy” from Glasgow Play Me Something Nice
Joy Crookes South London stories filled with wit and romance Don’t Let Me Down
Squid Multi-tentacled art-rock polymaths Houseplants
Yungblud Hypersonic emo-pop for the “underrated youth” Original Me

Hailing from Dublin, Inhaler have built an impressive live following since forming at school over a shared love of bands like Joy Division, The Strokes, The Stone Roses and The Cure.

Once you know the U2 connection, it’s hard not to the similarities between Eli Hewson’s soaring vocals and those of his father – but the band have worked hard to stand on their own two feet.

“For me and for us as a band, we’ve known that there’s going to be doors open,” Hewson told the NME. “But those doors will shut just as fast as they open if we’re not good.”

They’re not the only act on the longlist with famous connections. Georgia, who scored a major club hit this year with About Work The Dancefloor, is the daughter of Leftfield’s Neil Barnes, while Yungblud is the grandson of Rick Harrison, who played with T Rex in the 1970s.

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Yungblud has built up a huge following with singles like Original Me and 11 Minutes

The Doncaster-born singer is the most high-profile name on the 2020 longlist, with 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify – more than all the other artists combined.

Born Dominic Harrison, the 22-year-old has positioned himself as the voice of a generation, singing about topics like sexual assault, corporate greed, anxiety and “the underrated youth”.

“I never want to be predictable,” he told the BBC earlier this year. “If people know what I’m going to do next, then I’m completely shafted.”

Sensitive singer-songwriter Joesef, meanwhile, has been branded one to watch in Scotland – where he became the second artist to sell out Glasgow’s legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut before releasing any music online (the first was Lewis Capaldi).

The longlist is completed by two bands who defy categorisation – Leicester quintet Easy Life, who started out as jazz musicians before exploring the outer reaches of hip-hop, funk and pop; and Brighton’s Squid, who describe their music as “the Coronation Street theme tune played on flutes by angry children”.

The annual Sound of list celebrates musicians who have not been the lead artist on a UK top 10 single or album by 21 October 2019. Artists who have appeared on TV talent shows within the last three years are also ineligible.

The top five will be revealed in the New Year on BBC Radio 1 and BBC News, with one artist announced each day from Sunday 5 January until the winner is unveiled on Thursday 9 January.

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