If everything goes according to plan for the BBC, millions of Americans could be paying to watch exclusive TV series and movies as soon as next year. The British broadcasting giant is working on its own Netflix-style subscription service, one that's ostensibly more like HBO Now and other network-specific offerings than multi-network smorgasbords like Netflix and Hulu.
Of course, some BBC shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who are already available to American viewers through licensing deals with networks; others still are available on the same streaming services the BBC is seeking to emulate. Those shows won't be available as part of this service, at least not right away. But there are many others that have never aired in the US in any official capacity, and the company is hoping the opportunity to see them — and selections from its near-century as a broadcaster — will draw in new subscribers.
The BBC needs more money, and it needs it now
The BBC's gambit is coming at a crucial point in its long history. The British government is conducting a lengthy review of the network's business practices, contemporary purpose, and funding, and it's being pressured to raise commercial income through both new productions and alternative business models. It does have a technological head start thanks to iPlayer, its popular catch-up streaming service for British residents, but it's already said the new service will do more than copy iPlayer's interface for a new audience. If you're the kind of cord-cutter interested in the BBC's programming, you'll get to pat yourself on the back upon its launch — it's not every day your voracious appetite for new TV directly supports a legendary public institution.