BBC is TWICE the value of Netflix, director-general Tim Davie claims

Would YOU pay £400 a year for the BBC? Viewers call director-general Tim Davie’s bluff and tell him to ‘drop licence fee and offer annual subscription’ after he claimed content would cost three times as much if it operated like Netflix

  • Each hour of BBC TV watched by a household costs around 9p, broadcaster said
  • An ‘equivalent’ streaming service ‘consumed by the household’ costs around 15p
  • It added for pay TV services the cost started at well over 50p an hour, on average
  • The BBC report also said there was ‘unprecedented competition’ for audiences

Social media users today called Tim Davie’s bluff and told him to ‘drop the licence fee and offer an annual subscription’ after the BBC director-general claimed it would cost £400-a-year if the corporation operated like Netflix. 

Mr Davie said that a bundle of subscriptions offering comparable ‘high-quality’ and ‘advertising-free’ services to the BBC across ‘video, audio and news’ would cost far more than the £157.50 licence fee. 

In response, Twitter user Nigel Malone wrote: ‘Tell you what, let’s run with that, drop the licence fee & go subscription-based. Let’s see what the subscriber numbers are. That will tell you it’s worth.’ 

The report, unveiled by BBC director-general Tim Davie (pictured above at the BBC’s Scotland HQ), claimed that while ‘each hour of BBC TV watched by a household costs it around 9p’, for an ‘equivalent’ streaming service the cost per hour ‘consumed by the household’ was about 15p

Social media users today called Tim Davie’s bluff and told him to ‘drop the licence fee and offer an annual subscription’

Mr Davie said that a bundle of subscriptions offering comparable ‘high-quality’ and ‘advertising-free’ services to the BBC across ‘video, audio and news’ would cost £453 rather than the £157.50 licence fee

Richard Wilkinson tweeted: ‘I would have no problem with the BBC becoming a subscription based service and scrapping the license fee. 

‘They can elect to charge whatever they like, the reality will bite quickly when people decide £400 or even £100 is not value for money. The coffers will soon dry up.’

And James McGlynn added: ‘Get on with it, make the BBC a subscription service. Give us the choice.’

How does the BBC and Netflix compare?

Broadcasting channels

The BBC airs on 10 TV UK channels, 50 radio stations and 10 apps. Netflix has its one app. 

Documentaries 

As a national service broadcaster, the BBC’s catalogue of documentaries far outstrips the number of films on its iPlayer service and totals 683.

But this is less than Netflix’s 794, a difference of 111. 

Both outlets have produced hard-hitting documentaries. With national treasure David Attenborough, the BBC’s Planet Earth series provided a jaw-dropping dive into the natural world.

BritBox ‘struggles to keep viewers’ after 30-day free trial 

BritBox, the new subscription streaming service launched by the BBC and ITV, is struggling to hold onto viewers once its free one-month trial has ended, according to research.

The £5.99 service, which was launched last year, offers 283 box sets and claims to have a larger UK collection than rivals, including Amazon and Netflix.

However, only 1.5 per cent of respondents to a survey by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates said they were paying a BritBox subscription after the 30-day free trial finished – equal to about 380,000 households. 

The actual subscriber and viewing figures are not known as BritBox says it is too early to measure how the platform has performed, according to The Times.  

By way of comparison, Netflix – which began its streaming service in 2010 – has over 60million subscribers in the US alone, and 148million paid subscriptions worldwide.

It has 9.1million streamers in the UK, who pay from £5.99-per-month to £11.99-a-month for 4K+HDR to watch series like The Crown and Stranger Things.

But recently it seems to be Netflix documentaries getting people talking. 

Netflix hits such as Tiger King, Miss Americana and Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich all featured on Esquire’s top documentaries of 2020. 

Films

Movies are Netflix’s bread and butter, and its 1,125 films by far exceeds the 134 currently available on iPlayer. 

For a comparatively small catalogue, the BBC offers a range of movies spanning modern blockbuster such as Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, to classics like Citizen Kane. 

But that Netflix itself produces considerably more original movies gives it the edge and a vastly bigger film library. 

TV shows 

The BBC pips Netflix on the amount of TV shows, by 1,568 to 1,125, and, again, both outlets have a record of producing must-watch binge-able series.

Netflix originals such as Bridgerton have been lapped up by viewers – despite failing to secure nomination for upcoming Golden Globes – as has The Crown.

The BBC also showcases the best of British television, with the likes of Line Of Duty, Sherlock and Bodyguard available for licence fee payers.       

UK TV content budget

The BBC has much deeper coffers when it comes to annual TV budgets – £1.6billion compared to Netflix’s £500million.

That is more than triple the streaming giant’s budget.  

Subscription cost

British TV owners pay a flat £157.50 per annum to keep the Corporation funded each year.

Netflix subscribers by contrast can secure a basic yearly subscription for £71.88, or £167.88 for the premium service, where viewers can watch in ultra HD on four devices simultaneously. 

Subscribers 

The BBC broadcasts to 25.5million homes across the UK, while Netflix lags on 15.2million.

However it is a substantial take-up from the US streaming platform given TV owners are threatened with jail if they do not pay the licence fee. 

Revenue

The BBC boasted a £4.9billion revenue in 2019, clawing in £3.7billion of that from licence fee payers.

Netflix barely mustered a fifth of that sum, taking in £940million from UK subscribers.  

It added for pay TV services the cost started at well over 50p an hour, on average.    

The corporation also claimed it represented ‘great value for money’, but there was ‘unprecedented competition’ for audiences from streaming services, social media and gaming – which has driven up the cost of talent as well as drama and sport. 

Mr Davie, appearing at an online talk by the Reform think tank yesterday, also appeared to suggest the corporation will make less factual programmes overall, with more emphasis on ‘landmark work’ like blue-chip natural history shows. 

He added: ‘Not every programme needs a podcast, not every programme needs lots of web presence.’ 

Mr Davie admitted that the BBC had become a ‘poster child’ for getting too many people to do a job. The BBC said it was making a minimum of 800 post reductions across BBC Nations and News.

The BBC have released a series of graphics showing the cost of the BBC and the number of services it provides 

This survey – included in a BBC report – looked at the popularity of various channels 

Mr Davie hinted that the BBC will be less generous in the future about the way the corporation’s shows end up on Netflix

Mr Davie also hinted that the BBC will be less generous in the future about the way the corporation’s shows end up on Netflix.

He said people waiting for its shows to appear on the streaming service will get ‘increasingly disappointed’.     

The BBC Value for Audiences report further claimed that it had seen an ‘effective’ 30 per cent reduction in income over the last ten years.

It said at a time of ‘increasing competition’ for audiences and ‘hyper-inflation’ in parts of the media market, the corporation had been forced to take on ‘more obligations with less income’. It said this had left it with ‘even less to spend on programmes and services’.

The report said the corporation’s income had dropped significantly, in part because of a five-year freeze on licence fee increases which was introduced in 2010.

In more recent years, the corporation said it had been forced to make tough decisions ‘which directly affect its audience offer’ in order to deliver savings.

It said these ‘scope cuts’ including the loss of Formula 1 and of shows like The Great British Bake Off as well as closing BBC3 as a traditional broadcast TV channel.

This graph shows how the number of people using the BBC at any one time has reduced in recent years 

But despite this it admitted that the corporation’s staff levels had remained ‘relatively stable’ between April 2017 and April 2020. 

It claimed the corporation had halved the number of senior managers and reduced the pay bill for this group of people by 40 per cent in the period between 2010/11 and 2019/20 – but it was still £44.2million.

The BBC said licence fee costs ‘less in real terms’ now than at the start of this period.

Mr Davie said: ‘The BBC has made big changes to ensure we provide outstanding value. We are smarter spenders and savers and more efficient than ever before, but there is more to do.’ 

He added: ‘The financial challenges and competition we face continue to evolve and while we have demonstrated we can deliver, I want us to adapt and reform further to safeguard the outstanding programmes and services that our audiences love for the future.’

The report said the corporation’s income had dropped significantly, in part because of a five-year freeze on licence fee increases which was introduced in 2010 (file photo)

The BBC’s savings programme is on course to deliver £951million worth of savings by the end of March next year, the report said.

The corporation said that so far it had managed to fund cuts by becoming more efficient, but added that this might be difficult going forward.

‘However, given the BBC’s last ten years of work to deliver significant gains in productivity, the report identifies that further savings will involve difficult choices that will impact programmes and service,’ a statement from the broadcaster said.

The BBC added: ‘As evidenced in this report, additional savings through productivity gains are becoming increasingly difficult and scope savings are now the predominant form of savings for the BBC.

‘In order for the BBC to deliver its public service commitments, support the creative industries and continue to invest in high-quality, world-class, distinctive content for UK audiences, it will have to do more with less income to spend on programmes and services.’ 

The report further found that the cost of each hour of BBC broadcasting for UK audiences dropped from 7.6p to 6.6p over the last decade.

This is broken down to 9p for each hour of TV a household watches, and 3p for its radio. 

Mr Davie also hinted that the BBC will be less generous in the future about the way the corporation’s shows end up on Netflix (file photo)

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