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Rupert Murdoch's Tubi enters UK's busy free streaming market

Tubi's UK platform
Tubi's UK platform Copyright Eat the Rich
Copyright Eat the Rich
By Jonny Walfisz
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The Fox Corporation has finally brought Tubi to the UK, but will it be able to repeat the success it's had in the US?

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Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation has entered the UK’s free online streaming market with the launch of Tubi.

Tubi was launched in 2014 in the US and was acquired by Fox in 2020 for $440 million (€410 million) in up-front cash. It is already accessible in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama.

The free-to-view ad-supported streaming platform is just the latest entry by Murdoch’s conglomerate into the UK market. His company already owns the hugely popular newspapers The Times and The Sun, but sold its 39% stake in Sky news to Comcast in 2018. He is, however, behind the less commercially viable right-wing news channel TalkTV. Also in continental Europe, he has a controlling interest in Sky Italia.

Prior to the Fox buyout, Tubi was made unavailable in the Europe Union due to GDPR regulations. The company made clear it intended to relaunch in the UK around 2019.

Five years later the streaming platform finally brings its library of 20,000 films and TV episodes from studios including Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Sony Pictures to the UK market.

Rupert Murdoch talks with the media in London, July 15, 2011
Rupert Murdoch talks with the media in London, July 15, 2011Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

However, while Tubi’s model of ad-supported free streaming is wildly popular in the US, counting around 80 million monthly users, the UK market is far more saturated with similar platforms.

UK residents already have access to Channel 4 and ITVX. Additionally, although the British public pay for the BBC through the annual licence fee, the national broadcaster’s streaming platform BBC iPlayer is broadly considered as a fee-less service that doesn’t even feature adverts.

Then there are the global paid-for services that are popular in the UK including Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.

Tubi’s success in the UK is less assured than in other markets, particularly as it doesn’t boast anywhere near as much original content as its competition. While streaming platforms boomed in the country during the pandemic, there has since been a decline in user bases that has caused companies like Netflix and Amazon to introduce adverts and higher subscription fees.

“Tubi has spent the last decade honing our approach to vast, free and fun streaming in North America, and we feel that now is the perfect time to bring that recipe to UK audiences. Most importantly, we’re committed to listening to what resonates with UK fans, and bringing them more and more of what they love,” Tubi’s CEO Anjali Sud said.

Streaming competition in the EU

While Tubi was removed from the EU market in 2018, it’s possible that its entry to the UK market is a prelude to a re-entry to mainland Europe.

Currently, in many EU countries there isn’t as much competition for free ad-based streaming platforms. Across the EU, the portability regulation of 2018 means any content streamable in one country should be accessible in all EU nations.

In France, some of the most popular examples are PlayTV, BFMTV, France 24, M6, TV5Monde, and Arte. There is also the subscription service France TV that gives access to even more French TV.

Spain has the streaming platforms RTVA and DKISS for its TV. In Germany, alongside the usual streaming services Magenta TV provides the content from domestic company Telekom. The Netherlands boasts Videoland and NPO as its major free-to-view broadcaster. Italians can access their domestic content through RaiPlay and Mediaset Infinity.

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