Without mentioning any of the questionable historical events that led South Africans here, many of us still enjoy quite a lot of British television. We grew up with old favourites like Mr Bean and Top Gear — which means nostalgia fuels the success of a streaming service recently launched in the country called BritBox.
BritBox made its internet debut in SA on Friday 6 August — after which Stuff received a subscription to review the service and its content. At first glance, this looks like the ideal place to gain access to those old favourite ‘box-sets’ as many call them.
None of us are planning to buy said box sets for a chance to watch Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen or Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder any more than we plan to watch segments of ‘em on YouTube. Which makes BritBox the perfect service to launch in South Africa. This is the service’s fifth territory following the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Come for the content, yeah?
The service is selling nostalgia, we get it. But what happens when your favourite British classics have been rewatched one too many times? Will you stay or will you inevitably… go?
Well, according to the recent media event attended by Stuff and local tech media, BritBox spokespeople detailed that the platform is continuously working on its own original content. You know, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Showmax is doing? Of course, it’ll all be brilliantly British.
Original content aside, however, you’ll find that BritBox offers all the crime investigation, drama and royal content this is in addition to a trove of cooking shows, a variety of docuseries and even comedy and reality content.
We were slightly disconcerted by the lack of certain favourites from the island in the North, including the Dr Who series, The Great British Bake Off and a few seasons of Hell’s Kitchen (all of which is available in other territories). We understand the reason for this is that a lot of BBC/iTV content is locked into distribution deals with other broadcasters in SA. So we may see them being added at a later stage.
At first glance, however, BritBox offers brilliant old favourites, seemingly captivating new original content, and a decent selection overall. Now to make a cuppa tea and binge some Blackadder.
But first, there’s functionality
Of course, we can’t review an app platform without touching on its functionality. Many streamer users are spoilt with Netflix, which likely employs the best user interface designers in the biz. So while BritBox’s overall functionality is slightly… off. It’s completely useable at the worst of times.
Its layout is reminiscent of Amazon Prime Video, which in itself doesn’t have the best interface. It displays a few feature bars including shows it reckons you’d like, including a few genre categories. If you plan to dive deeper, you’ll find the search not being particularly helpful. It’s best to scroll through the A-Z tab and find what you’re looking for.
Which is kinda a drag. We also found that users can’t create separate profiles, which makes a mess of multiple people using the service in one household.
In terms of actual functionality, it’s easy enough to navigate. Click a show and it’ll start playing — you’ll miss a few more advanced features found on Netflix like skipping 10 seconds back and forth, but it’s not a deal breaker, really.
Honestly, if your heart lies in the UK, it’s a no-brainer to invest a mere R100 per month for this service. Its content lineup is bound to grow from here, and you have the option to check it out via a 7-day free trial.