Publications

Format: Nov 2019
Sector(s) Datesort ascending
Reality bites, and will bite some more: UK mobile market Q2 2019

The UK mobile market suffered its worst performance in five years this quarter with Vodafone alone, somewhat inexplicably, bucking the trend

5G capacity is impacting pricing trends with SIM only packages flattening and unlimited packages increasing in popularity and complexity

As the operators invest in solving rural coverage and rolling out 5G, they will continue to be hit by regulation. Out of contract notifications and discounts are next in a long series of assaults

  • BT
  • EE
  • Hutchison 3G
  • O2
  • Vodafone
Telecoms 4 September 2019
Under pressure, how TV is changing on the screen

Analysis of peak time TV programming on the main five PSB channels from 2002 to today shows a decline in the number of UK dramas broadcast—predominantly due to a contraction by ITV—though this has steadied since 2010

The resolve of the PSBs to maintain the number of dramas broadcast, despite rising costs, will mean an inevitable increase in the number of repeats and cheaper programming

A number of other observations are eye-catching: a greater turnover of drama series, entertainment formats failing at a higher rate and celebrity being treated as a panacea

  • BBC
  • Channel 4
  • ITV
  • Viacom
Media, TV 2 September 2019
Brexit's effect on TV ad revenue 2019

We have revised our 2019 TV advertising forecasts down to -5% year-on-year due to the prospect of Brexit on 31 October, without an agreement and transition period of continued free trade to the next trading regime with the EU, thus implying the interruption of the free flow of goods across the UK's borders with Ireland, France and the EU generally.

With the UK economy already grinding to a standstill, forward guidance for Q3 2019 indicates further decline, and the prospect of a hard Brexit will make advertisers even less willing to commit TV budgets in November and December. As a result we forecast TV advertising to be down 6.7% in H2 2019.

Understandably, no official and reliable economic forecast for no-deal Brexit is in the public domain, so we are not yet in a position to forecast TV advertising revenue for next year.

Media, Telecoms 21 August 2019
What Amazon and Uber can learn from Chinese food delivery apps

In China, Alibaba and Tencent compete for food delivery to expand access to a fast-growing source of mobile user data, using their chat and wallet super apps to funnel customers to their food delivery apps

In the West, the rivalry is direct between the food delivery apps – Just Eat, Uber Eats, and Deliveroo – and the costs of last-mile delivery dissuade challengers

In the UK, Amazon will change the game if it succeeds in its proposed purchase of a minority stake in Deliveroo, which Uber failed to buy last year. Progress on the merger of Amazon and Deliveroo is suspended by the regulator

  • Alibaba
  • Amazon
  • Tencent
  • Uber
Internet, Media, Technology 19 August 2019
UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q2 2019: Pressure still on

Market revenue growth bounced back to all of 1% in Q2 after near zero in the previous quarter, with broadband volumes at a near standstill

Operators appear resigned to this however, with new customer pricing appearing to recover, and wholesale price cuts not to be repeated

On the downside, further regulatory and commercial pressure on existing customer pricing is likely, and pricing détentes are often short lived

  • BT
  • Openreach
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
Telecoms 16 August 2019
Virgin Media: subscribers fall but ARPU grows

Virgin Media’s results were quite mixed, with the subscriber base shrinking in a very slow market, but ARPU and revenue returning to growth despite pricing pressure and regulatory drags

The outlook remains challenging, but market pricing does seem to be easing with no repeat of the damaging Openreach price cuts on the horizon

‘Full fibre’ roll-outs will bring further challenges, but opportunities as well, with the accompanying focus on higher speeds likely to be a significant operational upside in the short to medium term

  • Liberty Global
  • Virgin Media
Media, Telecoms 15 August 2019
BT: Temporary problems, long term promise

BT’s divisions had contrasting fortunes in Q1 2019/20, with Consumer revenue growth sharply turning negative but Openreach external revenue growth accelerating to 10%, leaving the Group level unchanged at -1% and EBITDA on course to meet guidance.

Consumer was hit by several regulatory and pricing factors mainly affecting mobile, and the short-term outlook remains tough, with a number of legacy pricing issues across fixed and mobile still to be resolved.

Openreach is reaping the benefit of previous price declines annualizing out, allowing it to take full advantage of higher speed demand, and due to its full fibre roll-out this dynamic could persevere for years.
 

  • BT
  • EE
Media, Telecoms 9 August 2019
Sky Q2 2019 results: strong subscriber growth and long-term investment in original content

Sky’s Q2 results were encouraging overall, with significant subscriber growth swinging direct-to-consumer revenue growth back to positive. ARPU declined once more, since new streaming customers are taking lower-priced products, but total revenue growth accelerated to 2.4%

EBITDA rose 20%, primarily due to the dropping out of some large one-off costs. Next quarter, Sky will begin making savings on the new Premier League rights contract, and increased football rights costs in Italy and Germany will have annualised out

Having launched Sky Studios in June, Sky is focused on producing original European content, with ambitions to double spend over the next five years, in a calibrated response to the Netflix-led race for content

  • BT
  • Comcast
  • NBCUniversal International
  • Sky
Media, Telecoms, TV, UK Media 6 August 2019
Vodafone: some signs of life but an uncertain road to recovery

Vodafone’s newfound focus on performance improvement is showing signs of delivering – more on the cost than revenue side. Tower sharing has the potential to ultimately enhance European cashflow by 10% 

The revenue picture is more mixed with churn improving but a very varied operational picture across its major European markets

Although Vodafone highlights the potential for German cable to drive growth post Liberty Global deal completion, their current 0.4% growth in Germany does not give cause for optimism 

  • Vodafone
Media, Telecoms 31 July 2019
More info on BritBox, more questions: ITV H1 results

ITV experienced a slightly-less-than-expected 5% drop in advertising revenue which was alleviated by lower H1 content scheduling costs, reflecting the timing of major sporting events

Love Island continues to be a ray of light, increasing its viewership and guiding the ITV Family audience share to an eleven-year high, while ITV Studios revenues were down but reportedly still on track for its 2019 targets

More information was provided on the Q4 rollout of streaming service BritBox and the addressable advertising platform for ITV Hub. ITV must be active in these areas but late entry presents problems and questions  

  • BBC
  • ITV
Media, TV 29 July 2019
O2: Lower costs mitigate the challenging environment

O2’s service revenue growth slipped decisively into negative territory at -1.8% this quarter as the punishing regulatory regime took its toll

Underlying EBITDA growth of 4% was particularly impressive in the circumstances; likely aided by more direct distribution as well as tight cost control

The coming week will unveil how this compares to peers; we anticipate results which reflect a tough environment with little let-up on the horizon

  • O2
Media, Telecoms 26 July 2019
Slower but steadier: TalkTalk Q1 2019-20 results

TalkTalk suffered subscriber losses and falling consumer revenue growth in Q1, with churn still high despite the high speed base growing, countered by ARPU growing for the first time since 2017TalkTalk suffered subscriber losses and falling consumer revenue growth in Q1, with churn still high despite the high speed base growing, countered by ARPU growing for the first time since 2017

The subscriber drop was, however, modest and looks quite deliberate, with there being evidence of price firming in both direct and indirect channels supporting both ARPU and margin

This more cautious approach, if it can be sustained, puts the company on a much more healthy footing in our view, allowing it to achieve its financial targets without increasingly unsustainable existing customer price rises

  • Openreach
  • TalkTalk
Media, Telecoms 23 July 2019
How could the BBC ever fund the over-75s?

In the BBC’s 2015 funding settlement commencing 2017, the Government assumed the BBC would fully fund the subsidy for over-75s to the tune of £750 million from 2020/21

Although the BBC’s settlement contained measures of “mitigation” worth c.£290 million, the BBC would still have faced a gap of c.£460 million to be funded by programme cuts and efficiencies (the BBC has pledged £250 million)

Including c.£300 million from the annual adjustment of the licence fee for inflation from 2017 would help. However, this was always required to offset normal salary and cost increases to prevent a real decline in the BBC’s resources

  • BBC
Media, Public Policy, TV 19 July 2019
Netflix's US subscriber loss

Netflix lost 126,000 US subscribers (net) in Q2, the first time this has happened since 2011 when a price rise accompanied the Qwikster debacle

This time a price rise—of one or two dollars, depending on tier—was one culprit, but the soft release schedule of big, returning original series, which usually give a bump to subscriber additions, played a part

Q3 has those series returns in spades, Stranger ThingsOrange Is the New BlackMoney Heist and Mindhunter likely driving subscriber numbers back up, but the suggestion that there is less flexibility to raise prices than previously assumed is a worry for Netflix and incoming competitors

  • Netflix
Media, Telecoms, TV 18 July 2019
Future of Public Service Media: EPG prominence to the fore

Ofcom’s recommendations to Government suggest updating EPG prominence legislation to cover connected TVs, and were warmly welcomed by the PSBs

Balancing various commercial, PSB and consumer interests will be key; determining what content qualifies for prominence will be a particularly thorny issue to resolve

Extending prominence to smart TVs and streaming sticks is critical, but implementation will be challenging

  • Apple
  • BBC
  • Channel 4
  • Five
  • Google
  • ITV
  • Samsung
  • Sky
  • Virgin Media
Media, Public Policy, TV 12 July 2019
Google's Icarus moment

Google’s advertising business has begun losing market share in the US, with competition from Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft intensifying in search and display

In response, the company is redoubling efforts to reshape its apps, services, and the entire web for more efficient monetisation, spelling uncertainty for partners and users

The adaptability and complexity of Google’s services reduce business risk from targeted regulatory measures, but increase the pressure for a radical intervention

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Microsoft
Media, Technology 2 July 2019
Roku: OTT pioneer under threat

With c.22m accounts across 44m devices, Roku has a US footprint which exceeds the largest pay-TV platforms

Limited competitive advantages highlight the scale of this achievement, but also leave the pioneering firm vulnerable to activities from bigger, wealthier rivals Apple, Amazon, and Google as well as pay-TV providers

The odds are stacked against Roku, but continuing the innovation in production and product that built its lead may secure future success

  • Amazon
  • Google
Media, TV 1 July 2019
Reader-first news media

The number of people willing to pay for online news now roughly matches print paid circulation, and will soon be substantially greater, with publishers increasingly demonstrating that their strategies are influencing industry outcomes

Our thesis is that subscriptions work in some cases, but that a more systematic reader-first approach benefits all cases, recalibrating management focus to media’s core purpose

Effectively implementing such an approach is a more radical, transformative development than is sometimes assumed. The winners will deploy sophisticated, bespoke audience acquisition and retention funnels and undergo detailed appraisals of the trade-offs necessary for optimal user experiences

  • Guardian Media Group
  • New York Times
  • News UK
  • Telegraph Media Group
Non-UK Media, Internet, Media, Technology, UK Media 28 June 2019
A strict early privacy verdict for UK online advertising

The Information Commissioner’s Office reported on the UK online advertising sector, finding common industry practices unlawful under a strict interpretation of the GDPR and UK privacy law

The ICO focused on problems around transparency, consent and data sharing in the Real-Time-Bidding ecosystem, which comprises 16% of UK online ad spend, but most of publisher online ad revenue. The ICO is giving the industry six months to shape up, with the next steps still unclear

The Competition and Markets Authority has had under consideration an investigation into the entire online advertising sector, but is hampered by Brexit-related considerations

  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Google
Media, Technology 25 June 2019
2019 TV advertising backstopped by Brexit

We expect total TV ad revenues to decline 3.3% in H1 2019, partly due to a return to Earth following the idyllic conditions of the World Cup in June 2018

Bad omens for advertising for H2 include the sagging economy since April and the Government’s impetus to achieve Brexit on 31 October, with or without a deal

Our forecast remains a 3% decline for total TV ad revenues for 2019 as a whole, with the risk of a more serious downturn in 2020 in the wake of Brexit

  • Channel 4
  • ITV
  • Sky
Brexit, Media, Telecoms, TV, UK Media 21 June 2019

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