ITV announces investment in Britbox Australia

Broadcaster ITV has said it will spend just under £10million in Britbox Australia, as the streaming service plans to launch down under this Autumn.

It will also invest around £1million in a data software firm called Cognitive Logic, the owner of ITV commercial partner and data analysis company InfoSum, which also provides services for television stations Channel 4 and CNN.

The proposed investments come a fortnight after the media giant declared that its first-half revenues and profits fell substantially as a result of plunging advertising revenues triggered by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

ITV has been hurt by declining advertising revenues since the coronavirus pandemic began

ITV has been hurt by declining advertising revenues since the coronavirus pandemic began

ITV has been hurt by declining advertising revenues since the coronavirus pandemic began

Earnings were also hurt by the suspension of programme making on most of its television shows, including some traditionally popular staples like Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and the cancellation of series like Love Island.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall described the first six months of 2020 as ‘one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV.’ 

Pre-tax profits at the media giant plummeted by 93 per cent to £15million compared to the same time last year. Due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the company said it would not pay out a dividend.

On the positive side, subscriptions to Britbox grew strongly, imitating the pattern of other streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which all saw a massive boost from the coronavirus lockdown.

Britbox is a lot smaller than its American rivals, partly because it is only available in three countries: the UK, USA, and Canada.

ITV hopes the service will launch in Australia sometime in the Autumn, though no specific date has been given. The service will be run as part of a joint venture with the BBC Studios, with both firms owning an equal share.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall described the first six months of 2020 as 'one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV'

Chief executive Carolyn McCall described the first six months of 2020 as 'one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV'

Chief executive Carolyn McCall described the first six months of 2020 as ‘one of the most challenging times in the history of ITV’

It said the new A$17.7million (£9.6million) investment in Britbox Australia would be spent over three years with BBC Studios providing equal funding.

Britbox began in 2017 as video-on-demand services were growing ever-popular across the world. Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime, the service shows exclusively British television shows and films.

These include motoring programme Top Gear, detective drama Broadchurch, documentaries like Michael Palin in North Korea, and comedy-dramas such as The Inbetweeners and Peep Show.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Dominic Cummings

Dominic Cummings

Puppets of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cumming are among the public figures who will star in the new Spitting Image series, which is due to launch on Britbox later this year

There is comparatively little original content as well. However, fans of the original Spitting Image comedy show, which ran between 1984 and 1996, can see a newly-revamped version of the series when it is released later this year on Britbox.

The show was famous for lampooning politicians, royalty and entertainment figures such as Margaret Thatcher, Roger Moore and Prince Charles with puppet caricatures.

Impressionists Jon Culshaw and Rory Bremner provided some of the voices for the show, as did Alan Partridge star Steve Coogan. Private Eye editor Ian Hislop was among one of the programme’s many writers.

Other famous names involved with the show included Debra Stephenson, Mock the Week panellist Hugh Dennis, comedian Harry Enfield, and John Lloyd, the creator of Blackadder and QI.

Dominic Cummings, Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson are among the public figures who will be ridiculed in the new series. 

Boris Johnson’s puppet was revealed two weeks ago showing the Prime Minister with an oversized spiky mop of blond hair while his chief adviser Dominic Cummings has a hoodie with a bright silver collar.

Shares in ITV were down by 1.9 per cent to 60.1p by the end of the week.

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