ITV, the leading commercial television broadcaster in the United Kingdom, has announced ambitious plans to double online viewing, usage, subscribers, and revenues by 2026 through investment in its ITVX online strategy. In the race to grow online viewing, ITV is facing increasing competition from bigger players with bigger budgets.

ITV currently has 9.6 million online video users each month and 1.2 million online video subscribers in the United Kingdom. It delivered over a billion hours of online viewing in 2021, up from 856 million the previous year. It sounds impressive, but it still only amounts to a couple of hours of viewing a week per online viewer. That is not a lot in television terms.

The ITV Hub+ subscription service has just over half a million subscribers, up by a quarter on the previous year. That includes distribution through Amazon channels and free trials.

Britbox has 733,000 subscribers in the United Kingdom, which ITV describes as being ahead of plan, saying that churn has halved since launch, without saying to what level.

Britbox international has 2.4 million subscribers and is now available in four countries and is due to roll out in the Nordic region soon. The target is to reach 10-12 million subscribers outside the United Kingdom by 2030.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall says the strategic vision is to be a leader in streaming in the United Kingdom and an expanding global force.

ITV wants to build on its position as the biggest premium advertiser funded online video service in Europe, although it will face considerable competition. The aim is to double online revenues to £750 million by 2026 and to double its online video subscriber base in the United Kingdom to 2.5 million.

To put that in perspective, total ITV external revenue for 2021 of £3.45 billion was up by a quarter compared to the previous year. What is described as “digital” revenue amounted to £347 million, up from £248 million the previous year.

Direct to consumer revenue, which also includes things like competitions as well as subscriptions, fell by 9% in 2021 to £75 million.

Britbox made a loss of £61 million in the United Kingdom, which was in line with expectations of a loss of £55-65 million.

ITV currently has a market capitalisation of under £3 billion, having seen its share value halve over the last year. It is still above its lowest ebb in mid 2020 during the height of the pandemic but it is worth a quarter of what it was in early 2016.

With its online plans, ITV is seeking to compete directly with bigger players with apparently bottomless budgets and global scale.