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ITV to take on Netflix with new Spotify-style streaming platform ITVX

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TV is ramping up its ambitions in the already crowded pay-TV market with a new Spotify-style streaming platform.

ITVX, set to launch later this year, will let people watch programmes for free with ads or trade up for an ad-free subscription. ITV Hub, the broadcaster’s existing streaming platform, will be folded into the new platform and BritBox, its partnership with the BBC, will feature for subscribers.

CEO Carolyn McCall said ITVX would “supercharge” ITV’s ambitions in streaming.

The broadcaster plans to invest £180 million over the next two years in new programmes exclusively for the new service, as it tries to shift from TV catch-up to appointment viewing.

“We’re in competition with everybody for eyeballs, including games,” McCall said. “We’ve got to attract the viewers and we’ve got to keep them coming back.”

The new platform will host a premier a week. New releases include A Spy Among Friends, starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce, and Nolly starring Helena Bonham Carter. They will appear on broadcast TV six to nine months later.

ITVX will host 15,000 hours of programming at launch, compared to 4,000 currently on Hub, and TV controller Kevin Lygo said the platform would become a “destination”, putting it shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Netflix and iPlayer.

McCall also talked up the appeal of “fast channel” on ITVX: quasi-playlists of TV programmes that curate episodes to people’s tastes. Examples include: ‘Hell’s Kitchen US’, ‘True Crime’, ‘The Oxford Detectives’, ‘90s Favourites’ and ‘The Chase’.

Broadcaster ITV has unveiled plans for a new on-demand platform called ITVX amid aims to double its digital sales by 2026 after posting a leap in annual profits (Ian West/PA)

/ PA Wire

“What viewers want is the choice and they want curation,” McCall said. “Sometimes they want to lean back and let you do the work.”

Set up costs, beyond programme investment, will total £25 million. ITV thinks revenue from the new service will cover costs and investment by 2026.

News of the launch came as ITV reported what McCall dubbed “outstanding financial results.” Revenue jumped 24% last year to £3.4 billion and pre-tax profits nearly doubled to £480 million. Net debt was down 24% and ITV announced a 3.3p per share final dividend.

The results were above City forecasts and management were upbeat about the ad market.

But shares sank 15.6p to 95p, down 14%.

Richard Hunter at Interactive Investor said: “The market had reacted with some cynicism to ITV’s lofty ambitions and the share price reaction today reflects a mauling by the bears.”

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