BBC’s Hall broadcasts plans for U.S. OTT service

BBC director general Tony Hall (pictured) said the new service will showcase British actors and culture, and focus on programs that Americans can't get elsewhere.
September 17, 2015

BBC Worldwide is going over-the-top in the U.S.

News of the British broadcaster’s digital plans across the Atlantic were all-but buried in a speech delivered by BBC director general Tony Hall (pictured) at the RTS convention in Cambridge yesterday (September 17).

Hall had few specifics to offer, but said the American OTT service will begin to roll out in 2016.

Details such as price, platforms and a specific launch date were not made public. On content, Hall said the service will focus on “programs (Americans) wouldn’t otherwise get, showcasing British actors, our program-makers and celebrating our culture.”

There has been a recent decline in production of original British programs — 13% fewer outside of news and sports, according to Hall. While digital streaming services such as Netflix have been pumping out their own originals, that content is not enough to make up for the loss in Brit programming.

“Netflix and Amazon have produced only a few hundred hours of original content between them — across the world. Almost all of it made in the U.S., not the U.K,” he said. “It’s really good stuff. House of Cards, for example, an amazing show. But my point is that these new businesses are unlikely to address the Britishness problem… the decline in original content from the U.K.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Hall discussed the strategy and intent behind the formation of BBC Studios.

“It will be vital,” he said of the move towards creating a production unit that will be able to produce independently of the BBC for other broadcasters. “It will stimulate the sector. But it will not be dominant. There must be a level playing field.

“We estimate it will have a share of under 15 per cent of the UK production market,” he added. “And it will operate at arms-length. There will be no cross-subsidy from the licence fee. And it will be stringently and independently regulated.”

(From Stream Daily, with files from Barry Walsh)

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.