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Apple, Disney streaming services could grab 2 million UK subs each by 2023

Upcoming streaming services from Apple Inc. and Walt Disney Co. could net 2 million subscribers each in the United Kingdom over the next four years, according to data released by the country's communications regulator Ofcom.

Along with the British Broadcasting Corp. and ITV PLC's consolidated video-on-demand, or VOD, service BritBox, set to launch in the U.K. in the latter half of 2019, the three platforms could reach more than 5% of U.K. households by 2023.

And with an aggressive push the three services could together amass up to 10 million subscribers, according to the report from research firm Ampere Analysis.

The Ampere report forms part of Ofcom's ongoing assessment of the BBC's proposed changes to iPlayer, namely plans to increase the amount of time content is available from 30 days to a year.

The House of Lords is separately investigating the threat posed to public service broadcasters like the ITV and BBC by Netflix and Amazon's VOD services.

BritBox, Apple TV+ and Disney+ are looking to break into a market dominated by seven VOD platforms, split between local TV broadcasters' offering, or BVODs, and subscription-based VOD services, SVODs.

Top BVODs include the ad-free BBC iPlayer (funded by the annual U.K. TV license fee) and ad-supported services such as ITV Hub, Channel 4's All4, and Viacom Inc.'s My5.

The major SVODs are Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video and Comcast Corp.'s Now TV. These seven players already reach over 5% of U.K. households, according to the report, though their audience share differs considerably.

Of the big seven VOD platforms, BBC iPlayer is the biggest, reaching 13.4 million homes, followed by Netflix (9.9 million subscribers), ITV Hub (8.8 million homes) and Amazon Prime Video (7.7 million subscribers). Now TV is the smallest with 1.5 million subscribers.

But there is still room for newcomers in an already saturated market, the report says, with Disney, Apple and BBC-ITV's platforms set to drive growth in the coming years.

Announced in the U.S. March 25, Apple TV app launched to over 100 countries including the U.K. May 13. The VOD app, available across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and select Samsung smart TVs, includes a mix of TV channels and movies and shows that users can purchase or rent from the iTunes store.

Apple's original programming, on which it has spent an estimated $1 billion, will be available for an additional subscription in the fall.

Disney+, meanwhile, is set to launch in the U.S. this year, with international territories to follow in 2020 and 2021, starting with Western Europe and Asia. It will be stocked with family-friendly content from Disney and Fox Corp.'s entertainment portfolio, including Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox's film and TV units.

In 2017, BBC joined forces with rival ITV to launch BritBox in North America as the VOD home for recent and classic British shows. The service reached 500,000 subscribers in January 2019.

Ampere claims that Apple TV+, Disney+ and BritBox will grow to sizes comparable to Now TV within three years.

However, rising SVOD content budgets mean that the barrier to entry is higher than ever. According to Ampere, volume of content in hours available across Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV grew collectively by 175%, from 25,000 hours in the second quarter of 2015 to 68,000 hours in the first quarter of 2019.