ITV Preps ITVX Streamer for ‘Digital Acceleration’

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Later this year British commercial broadcaster ITV plans to launch a new streaming service combining SVOD and AVOD in two tiers.  

With the cost of living biting, advertising expected to take a down turn and consumers seemingly cutting back on streaming subscriptions, the new platform could face an uphill battle in a competitive market. 

“As we head into difficult times, being free ad-supported got to be a compelling reason to watch,” ITV Chief Product Officer Deep Bagchee said at the IBC conference in Amsterdam. “The interesting thing is that live is still quite strong. That’s how we landed on ITVX, which will merge all of our services into a brand new content proposition, a new brand and a new content offering.” 

ITVX is seen as the cornerstone of ITV’s digital acceleration. 

It will be the first streaming service in the UK to offer viewers the ability to access free content with ads and ad-free paid subscription, all in one place. 

Bagchee confirmed that the broadcaster will add thousands of hours of exclusive content to the platform including 35 flagship shows to launch in late 2022. It has inked deals with Anime Ltd and CBS Reality. 

“We want to move from being a catch-up service to becoming a destination for discovery and a true streamer,” Bagchee said. 

ITVX is described as viewer led - viewers will be able choose to watch thousands of hours of content for free in an advertising funded tier or trade up to a subscription service which provides all content ad-free and also provides thousands more hours of British boxsets from BritBox and other partners’ content. 

“The app or service [most ITV consumers] are already using will automatically upgrade to ITVX with all their account settings, currently watching and recommendations staying the same.” 

Bag also highlighted the role of FAST in the linear space. “FAST gives us the opportunity to experiment with channels and see how they’re doing on streaming platforms, which gives us a lot more flexibility when it comes to learning about user behavior,” he said. 

ITV has been focusing on agile ways of working cross-functionality to overcome challenges  such as digital transformation and harnessing ecosystem partnerships. “It’s all about how you get teams working together to create that environment. For ITVX, we need to establish how we carry out audience development, and potentially how we can bring the ITVX experience into the metaverse. Everyone’s trying to figure out how we can bring brands into the conversation [in the metaverse].” 

In a step change to its traditional approach, ITV will adopt a digital-first windowing strategy: premiering much of its new content first on ITVX and subsequently months later on ITV linear channels. 

As Carolyn McCall, ITV’s Chief Executive, said when ITVX was first announced: “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.” 

“We are supercharging our streaming business, fundamentally shifting our focus to think digital first, as well as optimising our broadcast channels, by continuing to attract unrivalled mass audiences. In doing so we are responding to changing viewing habits, but also the evolving needs from our advertisers. This will enable ITV to continue to be both commercial viewers’ and advertisers’ first choice.” 

Until the launch of ITVX later this year, ITV Hub will continue to be the free streaming home of ITV, with ongoing plans to scale up the amount of content on the service in the run up to ITVX launch. ITV Hub currently has 4,000 hours of content while ITVX will have around 15,000 hours at launch. 

BritBox will remain the standalone subscription home of British content until later this year, when the content on ITV Hub and BritBox will come together on ITVX. 

The pricing of the subscription tier in ITVX will be announced later this year. 

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