Most of the big streaming services available in Australia like Netflix, STAN, Binge and Foxtel target viewers of at all ages with something for all the family.
I’ve watched shows on the BBC/ITV streaming service Britbox during this year’s lockdown to give readers an idea of what to expect if they signup.
To summarise what’s on offer it’s largely British dramas (mainly police/mystery) and classic comedies, with a sprinkling of other shows all of which aim to appeal to viewers who are in the age range of low 40’s to retirement age.
To those who think that’s an unfair description, the current Highlights reel when you login to Britbox Australia is promoting coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, The Great British Sewing Bee, Doctor Who (every episode from 1963 to now), four murder mystery shows and one comedy about a 50 year old widower.
Some shows like Cracker, Wire in the Blood and Prime Suspect all well over 20 years old. These old series have quite variable quality video which is 4:3 ratio and audio quality also varies, plus some have subtitles and some don’t.
In comparison more recent shows like Silent Witness Seasons 1-9 from early this century has relatively good DVD grade quality audio and video and new shows like Endeavour and Line of Duty Season 6 are solid HD quality with clear sound. To the best of my knowledge there is no 4K content on Britbox and no premium audio codecs eg Dolby Atmos.
Perhaps Britbox can’t do much about old standard definition shows not looking great on a large 4K TV but maybe if they remastered some of their older shows they would upscale better.
Since launching almost a year ago in Australia, Britbox has added some new content like the reboot of All Creatures Great and Small as well as exclusive streaming rights for Line of Duty season 6, so it’s not just old content.
However mentioning Line of Duty reveals the main problem for Britbox. BBC and ITV love getting revenue from their existing deals rival streaming services so you don’t need Britbox to watch Line of Duty seasons 1-5 as they’re all on STAN, Netflix and Acorn.
If you haven’t heard of ACORN, it’s another niche TV streaming service. Problematically for Britbox it has a lot of British TV shows as well such as exclusive rights to Agatha Christie’s Poirot and quite a few shows that Britbox has eg BBC’s Line of Duty seasons 1-5 and ITV’s Midsomer Murders.
Since many BBC and ITV shows are already licensed to existing Australian Pay TV channels like BBC First, UK TV and streaming services including Netflix, STAN, Foxtel and Free to Air catchup apps this means key British shows like Coronation Street and Eastenders are missing from Britbox Australia and it dilutes the value of the Britbox service when many of it’s shows are available elsewhere.
Hopefully BBC and ITV follow the example of Disney+, let a lot of these content licences expire and shift these shows to Britbox, rather than having their shows fragmented across different Australian streaming and Pay TV platforms.
Despite some drawbacks Britbox is definitely worth subscribing to if you’re 40+ in age and like British drama and comedies, especially if you want to regularly escape mentally by viewing a classic old TV show such as Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect or a newer show set in a COVID free time several decades ago like Endeavour.
BritBox is available to Australians for $8.99 per month, or $89.99 for a 12 month subscription, after an introductory 7 day free trial. BritBox is available via web, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and tablets, Chromecast, Apple TV (4th gen and newer), Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Telstra TV, and Fetch. Disappointingly there isn’t an Android TV app yet.