It’s been a blockbuster few weeks for BBC iPlayer, following some record viewing figures and a redesigned app on all Smart TVs, the Beeb has announced that an influx of new content will arrive in the coming weeks to help the on-demand service compete with US rivals, like Prime Video, Disney+ and Netflix. The BBC hopes that a record 1,000 boxsets available to stream from the app, all accessible for free to anyone who pays their TV licence, will help iPlayer compete during the festive period.
In recent years, there has been a steady shift away from traditional terrestrial channels on Christmas, with viewers increasingly tempted to look elsewhere. Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ have all tried to capitalise on this trend – launching exciting new films and series on this key date. Last year, Disney+ rolled out the latest film from Pixar Studios, Soul, which had its theatrical release cut due to the pandemic on December 25, while Netflix has scheduled an impressive 23 Christmas-themed films and shows from now until the big day. This includes new family-friendly films from Wallace and Gromit animation studio Aardman, a new interior design competition show, entitled Blown Away: Christmas, hosted by Queer Eye‘s Bobby Berk, and the third entry in the popular Princess Switch series, starring High School Musical alumni Vanessa Hudgens.
The Beeb is looking to tempt viewers back to its streaming service, which is available on smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, a bevvy of games consoles and set-top boxes, including Roku, Sky Q, Sky Glass, Apple TV, and Amazon’s popular Fire TV, with some of its biggest original shows, including Vigil and Line of Duty. These hit dramas, which some people might’ve missed throughout the year, will be available to binge-watch over the festive period.
Of course, it’s not all recycled critically-acclaimed thrillers, there will also be a host of new festive shows, including Around The World In 80 Days, which sees David Tennant star as Phileas Fogg and boasts the talents of Ashley Pharoah (Life Of Mars) as showrunner. The Girl Before, a psychological thriller about a woman who moves into a strange ultra-minimalist house with a strict list of rules, all designed by an enigmatic architect. The four-part series is based on a book of the same name, which has sold over one million copies since its publication in 2016.
Just like Netflix and Prime Video, BBC iPlayer will also have a steady stream of Hollywood blockbusters for those who want to enjoy a movie night over the festive period. Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, a Marvel double-bill with Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Blade Runner 2049, which stars Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, will all arrive on iPlayer throughout the crucial Christmas period.
Of course, iPlayer will be updated as new shows air on the BBC’s terrestrial channels, with specials of Mrs Brown’s Boys, Strictly Come Dancing, Call The Midwife and EastEnders all planned. Meanwhile, BBC One has two new David Attenborough documentaries films that will be available to stream online and watch via Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media and more.
Speaking about the push for eyeballs over the festive period, BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore said: “For many of us, those precious days over the Christmas break are all about being curled up on the sofa with a boxset. We’ve got over a thousand box sets ready to stream – more than ever before. So always something to watch, whoever you are and whatever you’re into.”
Only time will tell whether the Beeb has done enough to shore-up iPlayer against the likes of Disney+’s hotly-anticipated Stars Wars spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett, which has teased at the end of the second season of The Mandalorian, as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Encanto, which is currently only available in multiplexes. Prime Video has secured the rights to a new heist thriller from Guy Ritchie, dubbed Wrath Of Man, and has the exclusive rights to Premier League games on Boxing Day.