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BritBox: is there anything worth watching on there?

Britbox

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BritBox has finally launched in the UK! This article will explain what BritBox is, what you can watch on it, how much it costs – and the crucial question of whether it’s worth signing up at all.

What is BritBox?

BritBox is a combined effort by the BBC and ITV to make all their current and classic shows available to stream. While you’ll find their shows scattered across Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and their own on-demand services, it’s a hit-and-miss affair. BritBox aims to be your one-stop shop.

How much is it?

£5.99 per month. There are no different quality options, that’s your lot. The good news is that you can cancel at any time and there’s a 30-day trial (but you will need to hand over your credit card details).

Where can I watch BritBox?

You can watch BritBox via your computer’s browser; via apps on Android phones, iPhones and iPads; and on Apple TV and Samsung smart TVs. There isn’t yet an app available for the Amazon Fire TV stick.

You will also be able to watch BritBox via Freeview Play (both through set-top boxes and smart TVs that include the service), as well as YouView. That’s meant to happen “later this year”, but there isn’t much “later this year” so we shan’t hold our breath.

Can I download shows on BritBox?

No. This is incredibly frustrating for anyone who travels a lot. We’re currently trying to find out why people can’t download shows and whether that will change in the future.

What shows are on BritBox?

A huge number. Think of a big series from the past 30 years and the chances are it will be on there. Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Life on Mars, House of Cards, Broadchurch, Absolutely Fabulous, Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, Cracker, Brideshead Revisited, Cold Feet…

Britbox comedy shows

And, crucially, all the series are there, so you don’t get that annoying Amazon Prime experience of watching series 1 to 4 and then realising 5, 6 and 7 aren’t available.

There are also a bunch of classic films. Think Carry On, Hitchcock and World War 2 classics such as The Eagle Has Landed. It’s no Netflix, but you’ll find something to watch of an evening.

However, my biggest gripe with BritBox is the amount of duplication there is with other streaming services. In the screenshot above, for instance, all but six of the shows (Birds of a Feather, Cockroaches, Comedy Central at the Comedy Store, Dinnerladies, Drunk History and Famalam) are on Netflix.

It may be that, over time and as contracts expire, the BBC/ITV pull their shows from other streaming services to give BritBox greater exclusivity, but right now it feels like you’re paying for a lot of the same stuff twice if you already subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime.

And then there are BBC shows on the other services that AREN’T on BritBox…

What shows aren’t on BritBox?

BBC and ITV have already licensed many of their biggest shows to other streaming services, and in some cases those came with exclusivity. So there’s no Doctor Who, for instance. And if you want to watch Top Gear series 1 to 20 then you’re out of luck: only series 21 to 26 are available.

Over time, this will change. For instance, Channel 4 has signed up to BritBox on a three-year deal, while Channel 5 and Comedy Central are both due to release “hundreds of hours” of shows to the service.

Finally, don’t expect new shows to appear on BritBox first. It seems likely that the BBC and ITV will still try to create “event television” by broadcasting first and sending to BritBox later. Example? There’s no sign of His Dark Materials on BritBox yet.

Is it worth subscribing?

Hmm. There are so many great streaming services around that it’s tough to justify yet another outlay each month, but this could be worth the occasional binge on classic TV shows. For instance, I’m going to use my first 30 free days to watch the first series of Broadchurch, which I missed first time around.

NOW READ THIS: How rapidly are Netflix prices outstripping inflation?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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