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Alliance against Netflix: BBC leads European push against US rivals

The BBC is reportedly in talks with European public service broadcasters about creating an alliance against US streaming giants.

The Sunday Times reports that the BBC is in talks to extend its commercial ties with counterparts across Europe to aid with co-productions. The newspaper says that following BBC Director-General Lord Tony Hall's appointment as president of the Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, he will press for greater collaboration among the 117 member broadcasters, which include Ireland's RTÉ, RAI in Italy, NPO in The Netherlands and France Télévisions.

This could, the paper says, lead to more European content appearing on the iPlayer.

Non-publicly funded EBU members are likely to collaborate by pooling streaming technologies and data analytics tools instead.

EBU members already collaborate on matters such as Eurovision, classical music radio, news gathering and broadcast technology.

At the same time in the UK, talks are still ongoing between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 over a joint streaming service, previously dubbed a "British Netflix", bringing the best output from across television channels in one place.

The proposed alliances are a result of public service broadcasters struggling to keep up with changes in viewing habits and the big budgets that Amazon Prime and Netflix enjoy.

Netflix is due to spend $13bn (£10.3bn) on content this year. In comparison, UK public service broadcasters invested £2.5bn in content in 2017.

The licensing issue
In order to develop a unified online offering, public service broadcasters are currently attempting to untangle themselves from complicated rights and licensing issues, whereby the rights for individual programmes are scattered between the original broadcasters and independent production companies and sometimes split between different linear and on-demand services. This particularly affects the BBC/Discovery joint venture UKTV which looks set to be split in order to bring all the rights to archive BBC productions in-house.

The situation is also replicated abroad where the complex licensing of programmes is one of the reasons why the official availability of British TV channels and programmes varies so much from country to country.