Publications

Format: Aug 2016
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Sector(s) Datesort ascending
The matter of Peak TV, and what it means for the UK

Whether the US has reached “Peak TV” —the apogeic volume of original scripted series—is debatable, but the mass of content being produced is unparalleled

As television continues its transition from a disposable medium to a permanent one, and an increasing number of outlets are creating original, scripted programming to keep up or differentiate, does this American explosion have ramifications for the UK consumer or broadcaster?

Simply put, the UK’s more concentrated television landscape limits exposure. And, counter-intuitively, an unsustainable focus on scripted drama could play into the hands of the traditional broadcasters, whose future strength may lie in the diversity of their offering

  • 21st Century Fox
  • BBC
  • Channel 4
  • NBC Universal
Media, Non UK Media, TV 31 August 2016
Volumes slow, but revenue robust: UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q2 2016

UK residential communications market revenue growth was broadly unchanged at 5% in Q2, despite volume growth continuing to slow across all products, with pricing and fibre adoption helping to boost ARPU

The combination of weakening market growth and an accelerating Virgin Media (on the back of its Project Lightning network extension) is putting pressure on the other operators, all of which were weak in subscriber terms

These factors bode for a competitive Q3 with the major operators offering very aggressive promotions in the battle for subscribers at the start of the football season. Underlying pricing though looks firm with price rises already implemented, scheduled or expected in Q4

  • BT
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
Fixed Line, Telecoms 23 August 2016
A third digital ad force: Verizon and Yahoo

To diversify revenue in a saturated US mobile market, telecoms giant Verizon Communications followed an earlier merger with AOL by acquiring Yahoo for $4.8 billion

The combined online ad platforms are likely to become the most viable contender for third place in the US, after Google and Facebook

Verizon’s mobile subscriber data could narrow the market leaders’ targeting and measurement advantage, but regulation and customer reception pose risks

  • Yahoo
Non-UK Media, Non-UK Telecoms, Internet, Media, Mobile, Non UK Media, Telecoms 15 August 2016
US and UK: Cord-cutting-shaving-nevering

Cord-cutting has become a major headache for US pay-TV operators in the last three years, while cable network channels face further erosion due to cord-shaving and we now see a rapidly growing population of cord-nevering households that have never taken a pay-TV subscription  

Should we expect it to be only a matter of time for the UK to follow the US? The short answer is no, due to major differences in the pay-TV market infrastructures of the two countries, which leave the UK much less exposed

However, downward pressures from the online space do exist in both countries, while the big cord-cutting-shaving-nevering threat we now see in the UK has most of all to do with the chill Brexit winds on the economy

  • BBC
  • BT
  • Channel 4
  • ITV
  • Netflix
  • Ofcom
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
Media, Non UK Media, UK Media 12 August 2016
Channelling strength: Virgin Media Q2 2016 results

Virgin Media had its strongest June quarter since 2008 with 43k broadband net adds (31% of market net adds), of which Project Lightning contributed less than half. Current momentum remains largely dual play with continuing, though stable, net losses in the TV base

Content investments, and an upgraded UI and STB will be at the centre of TV promotions as refreshed triple play bundles are launched towards the end of the year in a bid to reinvigorate premium pay TV competition. In a saturated premium pay TV market, base stabilisation should be the near term target

Pressure on revenue growth from price increase mechanics, discounting, one-offs and other factors are set to ease from next quarter, in tandem with increased Project Lightning contributions. As we enter the football season, attention turns to wholesale content costs following a record breaking rights auction last year

  • Virgin Media
Fixed Line, Telecoms 12 August 2016
Amazon Prime Air pilots in the UK

Amazon will test three possible features of their drone delivery system in the UK, which could make this novel shipping solution for small packages viable

When it launches, Prime Air will be limited to a catchment area of 2.3 million homes in the UK, with further exclusions for no-go areas for drones like airports and urban areas

Prime Air’s UK pilot will help the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) craft the rules for future drone delivery by retailers

  • Amazon
  • Google
Media, Technology, Telecoms 11 August 2016
The Bank lowers UK growth forecast

The Bank’s monetary stimulus will help restore confidence and smooth the economy’s post-referendum transition

If the Bank is right, the economy will avoid a recession and bounce back in Q2 2017

An advertising recession in 2017 still looks likely until the consumer gets his wind back and a growth path emerges

  • Facebook
  • Google
Media 9 August 2016
Sky firing on all cylinders: FY 2016 results

FY 2016 has been an excellent year, with all three Sky markets showing improved performance as Sky delivered 7% revenue growth (5% after adjusting for 2016 being a 53-week year) and 12% increase in operating profit

The success reflects Sky’s commitment to product and service innovation and diversification in an increasingly fragmented marketplace combined with tight control of back office costs and focus on synergies

As a measure of its success, Sky has set new cost synergy targets of £400 million annual run-rate by FY 2020 and is aiming for continuing middle to high single digit growth in revenues, which should let it comfortably absorb the rising costs of Premier League and Bundesliga live televised rights under the next contracts

  • Sky
  • Sky Deutschland
  • Sky Italia
  • Vivendi
Media, TV, UK Media 8 August 2016
Openreach: The Seventh Degree of Separation

Ofcom’s latest proposal for the structure of BT’s Openreach sits neatly between BT’s offer and its competitors’ demands, and is broadly sensible if the Pension Fund and cost issues can be resolved

Ofcom has been under pressure from MPs, consumer groups, BT’s competitors and others to ‘sort out’ BT given its perceived under-investment, despite UK broadband consumer outcomes being the best among European peers on nearly all objective measures

Ofcom’s focus on separation is therefore understandable, but we believe misplaced; while technical governance details are debated, BT’s share price (and hence ability to invest) languishes, and more concrete steps to give investment certainty get put on the back burner. Ofcom might be encouraging investment in theory, but not in practice

  • BT
Fixed Line, Telecoms 4 August 2016
BT Q1 2016/17 results: Not shabby

BT Group’s revenue growth was roughly unchanged in the quarter at 0.4%, with continued strong consumer growth mitigated by regulated and structural challenges in the rest of the Group

Both broadband and superfast broadband adoption is slowing, but BT is compensating with improving market share for the former, and the prospect of further uplifts from ultrafast for the latter

Regulatory uncertainties are likely to continue to weigh, with the current Openreach debate to be closely followed by the not-exactly-unimportant issue of copper and fibre pricing/regulation from April 2017

  • BT
  • EE
Fixed Line, Mobile, Telecoms 4 August 2016
Steady progress: ITV H1 2016 results

ITV H1 2016 revenues and EBITA showed double-digit growth year on year, though the greater share came from ITV Studios acquisitions of independent producers and H1 2016 was sequentially down on H2 2015, with ITV Studios accounting for most of the decrease

ITV Family NAR was flat year on year. Though Brexit has led to growing fears of a sharp downturn, ITV appears relatively well placed to handle such an outcome: ITV Main channel 7% uptick in H1 viewing share; £25 million targeted cost efficiencies in 2017; healthy balance sheet

ITV Studios revenues have doubled in scale since 2011 following 15 acquisitions of independent production companies; yet just how well the underlying business is performing organically is hard to assess due to the bumpiness of short term trends

  • ITV
Media, TV, UK Media 2 August 2016
Shifts in the games industry - mobile, consoles and VR

Gaming giant Tencent acquiring Supercell for $8.6bn when rivals are grappling with costs shows the importance of strategic discipline and scale for mobile games success

The games lineup on Sony’s PlayStation4 is pulling ahead of that on rival Microsoft’s Xbox One, testament to a growing lead in console sales and strong relationships with Asian studios

Transitioning to a VR dominated future, Sony is preparing to roll out VR globally in the autumn, while Microsoft pins hopes on a new VR-ready Xbox set to arrive next year

  • Microsoft
  • Sony
Internet, Media, Mobile, Non UK Media, Technology 28 July 2016
Jitters in post-Brexit UK

Political uncertainty has lifted since the UK has a new Government, committed to making a success of Brexit, which could require at least five years to complete

Economic uncertainty remains elevated and is negatively impacting business and consumer confidence, leading to sharply downgraded forecasts for 2016 and especially 2017

To gain control of immigration from the EU, the UK will lose market access for goods and services, although some offset could be achieved in the medium-term by bilateral free trade deals

Media, Technology, Telecoms 27 July 2016
Under pressure: TalkTalk Group Q1 2016/17 results

TalkTalk reported net losses in broadband (-9k), with likely negative pressure on line rental, and weakness also in TV (-23k) although fibre (+36k) and mobile (+48k) net adds remained strong. Ahead of insight from competitor performances, the figures suggest a challenging quarter for the operator

Group revenue growth improved 1.3ppts to -0.4% owing to particularly strong carrier revenues, an inconsistent revenue stream. This was in spite of slowing consumer revenue growth (-1.2ppts to -2.5%) partly owing to cyber-attack related impacts

The concerted strategic shift away from being a price discounter to a fuller featured value for money provider may well encounter similarly challenging quarters in a highly competitive market where rivals have larger marketing budgets and offer deep discounts

  • TalkTalk
Fixed Line, Telecoms 26 July 2016
Vodafone Q1 2016/17 results: Price-led growth

Vodafone Europe’s mobile service revenue growth continued to recover, despite regulatory and calendric headwinds, and continued customer service issues in its UK business

The improvement was driven by fairly aggressive price increases, most acutely in Spain, which drove fairly dramatic ARPU growth improvements but also subscriber growth slowdowns

While using network improvements to drive pricing premia is a sound strategy, the timing may be a little premature, and any significant macroeconomic Brexit impact may force Vodafone to reverse course

  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms 26 July 2016
Mid-form video: Beyond the long and the short of it

Video content is crudely defined. If something is not very short (<10 minutes) then it tends to be considered long-form. But there is a middle ground - one which displays a distinctive combination of characteristics in terms of production, broadcasting and viewing

Mid-form video (between 10 and 20 minutes) has the ability to carry the narrative arcs normally associated with long-form programming, whilst also retaining the snackable and shareable attributes of short-form

The footprint of mid-form is, so far, small. However, it is growing, as its unique qualities, such as excellent ad completion, become more readily recognised

  • 21st Century Fox
  • BBC
  • Channel 4
  • Sky
  • Turner
  • Vice Media
  • YouTube
Media 22 July 2016
Radio’s relevance to younger adults in danger

Both the commercial and BBC radio sectors generally seem to be in good shape, with radio listening also appearing robust. However, this masks a steep decline among younger adults that shows no sign of slowing down

With radio content available at the swipe of a finger, the linear schedule becomes less relevant, and the challenge broadcasters face is to create online hooks for the broadcast output

News Corp’s acquisition of TalkSPORT will open up new business opportunities as well as consumer engagement across The Sun and TalkSPORT and may prove an important milestone for the Sun brand

  • BBC
  • News Corp
Media, Music and Radio, UK Media 21 July 2016
European mobile in Q1 2016: Resilience of the dumb pipe

European service revenue growth improved in aggregate but with traction noticeably gradual and fragile, and growth remains negative. The future of this fragile recovery is highly uncertain in the wake of a vote to take the UK out of the EU. Most economists have budgeted a slowdown in UK GDP growth, revising 2017 expectations from around 2% to near zero or below. The IMF expect 1.3% growth in 2017 (-1ppt revision) based on “limited” Brexit impact with implied potential for further downward revisions, and it has made more modest cuts to forecasts for other European markets

Mobile service revenues are susceptible to the slowdown but we believe there to be sources of resilience in the revenue stream that would temper the impact including much reduced prepay share of the base, heavily eroded ARPU differential of contract users over prepay and contract tariff value for money, bundling trends, high smartphone penetration (>64%) and data attachment rates (>75%), and 4G coverage and penetration

Following a failed acquisition of O2 in the UK, H3G have turned focus to the proposed JV merger with Wind in Italy where offered remedies are rumoured to have been found acceptable although official confirmation (pending) is only due by 8 September. These include furnishing Iliad as a replacement fourth market entrant with uncertain consequences for the Italian market

  • EE
  • Hutchison 3G
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telefonica
  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms 21 July 2016
Mobile Google: beyond the smartphone

Google’s recent product updates and developer conference announcements aim for as many users on as many platforms and devices as possible – a return to strategic form

The company has a dual approach: using Android as a mobile trend-setter while also devising new ways for users and developers on other platforms to use Google services

The reach provided by these initiatives will help Google’s machine learning algorithms to better understand and predict user intent – the cornerstone of the company’s ad business

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Google
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology, UK Media 18 July 2016
iPhone under pressure

Adverse market trends are finally touching the iPhone, the mainstay of Apple’s business, which looks healthy in the short term but is facing substantial threats further out

In response, Apple has changed its iPhone pricing, is warming up to developers and seeks to address long-standing problems with its first-party service offerings

While some of the holes in Apple’s service suite are now being patched, the company is still playing catch-up to rivals Google and Amazon in areas like smart assistants, maps and the connected home

  • Apple
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology 15 July 2016

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