ITVX streaming platform launches for World Cup knockout games in gambling on technology

ITVX streaming platform launches for World Cup knockout games in gambling on technology

ITV is to launch its new streaming platform on the eve of the World Cup quarter-finals in a high-risk gamble on whether the technology behind the service can cope with an increase in viewers.

Football fans have been left furious with the ITV Hub after it froze during live England matches, but this will be replaced by ITVX, a new upgraded streaming platform, on Thursday 8 December.

The broadcaster has chosen the night before the World Cup quarter-finals, to be played on December 9 and 10, to launch the service, which will be accompanied by a marketing blitz.

ITV has first pick of the ‘last eight’ knockout games, giving it exclusive rights to an England draw, should Gareth Southgate’s side go that far.

Although the matches will be shown on terrestrial television, millions of England and Wales fans are set to watch the World Cup on mobile and laptop screens.

Figures from software company Amdocs found that while the majority (73 percent) of viewers plan to watch the World Cup on live TV, 44 percent of millennials and 38 percent of Gen-Z fans intend to stream games.

ITV is taking a risk that the technology underpinning ITVX will be able to cope with the expected demand without the buffering errors that plagued its predecessor during high-profile live events.

Love Island fans decried a “crash” last year when the Hub crashed, displaying an error message, just moments before the series was due to return.

ITV has spent £160m to give ITVX “completely new technical and user experience architecture”.

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Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV boss, promised a “simplified and seamless experience” compared to the Hub.

The World Cup will be accompanied by 20 themed pop-up FAST channels offering instant highlights, interviews and additional content.

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Aimed at a mass audience, ITVX will be free to watch, with advertising surrounding programmes. There will also be a subscription tier, with a yet-to-be-announced monthly fee, that will offer ad-free viewing and an additional 6,000 hours of content.

Bosses want ITVX to become a portal for live viewing, rather than a catch-up service. It will be the home of Big Brother, as ITV brings back the ‘original’ reality show next year in a bid to reach a younger audience.

Rhys McLachlan, ITV’s director of advanced advertising, told media website The Drum: “It’s not a lipstick-on-a-pig, ITV Hub 2.0 job – it’s a really transformative experience. It’s like going from a Nokia brick to an iPhone.”

He added: “We’re going to go from being average in the field to leagues ahead – it’s going to be a lot better than [BBC] iPlayer.”

ITVX offers exclusive premieres this autumn, including Kim Philby drama A spy among friendsstarring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce.

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