In The Frame – December ’16
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In The Frame December ’16

Streaming / Online / Tech

Amazon Prime Video has gone global – the streaming service is now available in more than 200 countries and territories – and The Grand Tour is among the exclusive content that’s available worldwide. Like Netfilx, however, the service is not available in China.

The BBC and ITV are to launch a Netflix-style TV service, called BritBox, which will initially target the US market, while Snap – owner of Snapchat, which has more than 100 million daily active users who watch in excess of 10 billion videos per day (an increase of more than 350 per cent since 2015) – is partnering with Disney-ABC Television Group (DATG), who’ll produce original episodic shows for US users of the app. Snap has already signed deals with NBC and Turner. Additionally, and as part of the deal, DATG will develop and sell advertising packages incorporating Snapchat’s video Snap Ads, which are full-screen and play with sound.

File-sharing site TorrentFreak has analysed the most-downloaded TV shows through BitTorrent and found that Game of Thrones is the most-pirated programme, for the fifth successive year.

The Freeview logo will be withdrawn from new SD TVs and set-top boxes from New Year’s Day. “Moving Freeview to a fully HD product line-up is a landmark moment for the UK market and continues our track record of striving to deliver the best subscription-free TV service,” said Guy North, Freeview’s MD.

And although AT&T is now offering 4K content to US businesses via its DirecTV pay-TV subsidiary, including live sports, Ultra HD, may not be in rude health. A report by industry analysts IHS Media & Technology Digest says the content side of the Ultra HD supply chain has been “slow to respond” in providing UHD programming to consumers and suggests that “UHD could, like 3D before it, become just a little-used, high-end feature of large-screen TV sets”.

BBC News

BBC TV enjoyed a successful festive period as eight of the 10 most-watched programmes on Christmas Day were BBC1 shows. The two most popular, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off, were watched by more than 7.2 million and 6.3 million people, respectively. Looking back on 2016 as a whole, those two programmes helped the BBC dominate the year’s TV ratings: 31 of the top 40 shows were broadcast on BBC1.

BBC Studios, meanwhile, has won approval to operate as a commercial entity and make programmes for other broadcasters and customers. The BBC Trust has formally approved the proposals, which are supported by the government and Ofcom.

BBC Radio Cymru, the UK’s longest running non-English radio station, celebrates 40 years of broadcasting on January 3.

Sky News

21st Century Fox made a formal bid this month to acquire full control of Sky, which is valued at £18.5 billion and Europe’s biggest pay television broadcaster, with 21 million subscribers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Austria. Should the deal go through, Fox would pay £11.7 billion for the 61 per cent stake it does not already own, but the bid has sparked a heated debate. The Financial Times asks five questions as it analyses the proposed takeover:

  • What is the future for chief executive Jeremy Darroch?
  • Will Sky shift from satellite to streaming?
  • Will Fox’s financial firepower lead to a new phase of big spending on content?
  • What is the future for Sky’s new mobile service?
  • Will the Fox takeover lead to a deeper push into European markets?

Campaign magazine says the acquisition would reduce 21st Century Fox’s dependence on advertising and increase a reliance on subscriptions, a combination which would create, according to Fox, “an agile organisation that is equipped to better succeed in a global market”.

But the proposed takeover has attracted growing calls for an Ofcom investigation, with some believing that Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, has taken advantage of post-Brexit market fears to get a good deal.

Matthew Hancock, deputy minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said the government would be “scrupulously fair and impartial” in its handling of a takeover bid for Sky, but the collective silence of Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Greg Clark, the business secretary, and Karen Bradley, Hancock’s boss and the culture, media and sport secretary, has been heavily criticised by many, including former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who have dismissed claims that much has changed since the Murdoch family last tried to buy Sky, in 2011.

Broadcasters opposed to the takeover of Sky are preparing to lodge complaints with regulators in the UK and Europe and if the deal is agreed Mrs Bradley would have 10 days to decide whether to refer it to Ofcom. Ian Whittaker, head of European media research at Liberum Capital, said: “The UK government is keen to promote investment in the UK post the Brexit vote. We doubt, therefore, it would want to veto what could be viewed as a major sign of confidence in the UK market.”

And finally…

  • Channel 4 is seeking three aspiring writers from the north of England to train to become TV writers. The broadcaster has teamed up with Northumbria University and writing development agency New Writing North to offer the opportunities as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards, which are open for entries until 2 February 2017.
  • Staying with Channel 4, a number of previously lost sketches featuring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore will be screened as part of a Channel 4 special on New Year’s Eve.
  • Live cricket is to return to British free-to-air terrestrial TV for the first time since the 2005 Ashes. Channel 5 has agreed a deal with BT Sport to broadcast Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) T20 tournament.
  • Free-to-air broadcaster TruTV could be closed if its owner, Turner, fails to strike a last-minute funding deal with an unnamed third party.
  • Facebook is partnering with the BBC and LBC, among others, as the world’s biggest social network trials broadcasting live audio content.
  • The Guardian and Vice Media have formed a partnership. The two organisations will produce co-branded special reports, presented by Guardian reporters, that will air across Vice’s news offerings in the US and UK.
  • ITV is to launch a paid-for subscription option for viewers wanting to access its on-demand service without advertising, while the broadcaster’s new pay per view channel, ITV Box Office, will show the IBO world super-middleweight title bout between Chris Eubank Jnr and Renold Quinlan – ITV’s first pay-per-view event – on February 4th.

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