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The Big Issue launches subscription video-on-demand service

The Big Issue, the UK social enterprise publisher, has launched its own subscription video-on-demand service. The service, entitled The Big Issue TV, will focus on socially conscious, political, cultural, and environmental documentaries for an ‘all-in’ monthly subscription fee of £3.99.

To launch the service, The Big Issue has partnered with French content factory, Alchimie, which has a catalog of more than 60,000 hours of content from more than 300 broadcasting partners worldwide. The channel will be curated by The Big Issue’s own editorial team.

The Big Issue is capitalizing on the fast-growing SVOD market which globally set a record for subscriber growth in Q4 2020, and is currently witnessing year-on-year growth of more than 28%. According to Strategy Analytics, the SVOD market has significant room for growth and is “still a long way from reaching maturity”.

We expect hundreds of millions of homes worldwide to move away from traditional broadcast and pay-TV over the coming decade.”

David Mercer, VP and principal analyst, Strategy Analytics

Russell Blackman, MD for The Big Issue, says: “Covid changed everything for The Big Issue and our vendors. TBI TV will build a new audience, raise awareness of issues that matter, and inspire viewers to take action. The greater the awareness we can generate, the greater the impact we can have on people and planet.”

The initiative comes at the end of twelve months of dramatic digital transformation for The Big Issue which had traditionally relied on its network of more than 2,000 street vendors to sell and distribute its weekly magazine.

In April last year, soon after the pandemic struck, The Big Issue launched its own app which allowed consumers to buy digital edition versions for £2.99 or to subscribe on an ongoing basis. The organization has subsequently launched a podcast, The Big Miss You, and a vendor-only app to improve digital inclusion for vendors.

The ‘pivot to digital’ has helped The Big Issue support more than 2,000 vendors during the pandemic, making payments of almost £1M to help them with accommodation, food, bills, connectivity, etc at a time when the distribution of its printed magazine ground to a halt.

The organization’s digital transformation has been overseen by Group CEO Paul Cheal, who previously led the digital transformation of heritage music brand NME to a freemium model and who also founded the Time Inc. UK Lab for product innovation which subsequently won numerous industry awards for publishing innovation.

As to whether other publishers might follow The Big Issue’s lead into SVOD, Cheal told WNIP, “Great specialist media brands have always acted as trusted curators for highly targeted audiences. As content consumption continues to diversify across new platforms, it is those brands which are well placed to take advantage of opportunities such as SVOD, offering their audience a new and complementary experience while also deepening overall engagement.”