ITV has announced a new streaming service, ITVX, which purports to be the UK’s first integrated advertising and subscription-funded (AVOD/SVOD) platform.
After a record year of viewership for its streaming services ITV Hub and BritBox, the broadcaster has been emboldened to a make digital-first shift. ITVX offers viewers the choice to watch thousands of hours of content for free in an advertising-funded tier, or to buy into the subscription service for an ad-free experience with ”thousands more hours of British boxsets from BritBox and other partners’ content”.
ITV has brought out the BBC's 10% stake in Britbox for a "nominal" amount to assume full control over the SVOD.
It reflects a wider digital-first windowing strategy in commissioning that will see ”much of its new content first on ITVX and subsequently months later on ITV linear channels”.
Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive, said: ”The digital acceleration we are announcing today builds on everything we have achieved in phase one of our ’More Than TV’ strategy. ITVX will be a free service supported by adverts, with a compelling subscription proposition. This is fantastic for viewers – it will provide a simplified and seamless experience with thousands of hours of free content made up of both library and original exclusive content. The subscription tier will provide a premium offering and includes all of the content ad-free as well as BritBox and future SVOD content partners.”
She said the move will ”supercharge” its streaming business and inspire a digital-first shift at ITV. She added that it will optimize broadcast channels by ensuring the largest possible audiences.
McCall admitted that the move was made to ”respond to changing viewing habits, but also the evolving needs from advertisers”.
In addition, Kevin Lygo, ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment, said: "Viewing habits are changing rapidly and ITV plans to offer viewers a service with more fresh, free content dropping every week than anywhere else.
He said that broadcast channels remain ”very important”, but don’t represent the best way to ”deliver our programs to as many people as possible in all the ways they want to watch them”.
Viewers will be able to stream new program exclusives, with ads, for free, ranging from premium ITV dramas, documentaries, US series, comedy and reality shows to blockbuster films. That includes the additional bundling of BritBox, shows from the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 on the SVOD tier.
From an advertising perspective, ITV will offer themed channels that can be sponsored by relevant brands. It says that as well as being able to live stream ITV linear channels, ITVX will have an ever-changing host of exclusive themed channels. 20 channels at launch, including Hell’s Kitchen US, True Crime, The Oxford Detectives, 90s Favorites and The Chase channels. In doing so, it appears ITV has been paying attention to the CTV streaming boom happening around it. The service will be launched later this year and the pricing will be revealed in due course too.
ITV's share price fell 17% in the two hours after the announcement.
As part of its future-proofing, the broadcaster is looking at how it can ride the waves of gaming in numerous ways, such as its investments in metaverse ideas.
The news was announced at ITV's 2021 results which saw the broadcaster achieve a record 24% ad revenue growth.