Publications

Format: Jan 2018
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Sector(s) Datesort ascending
Stitch Fix IPO: profits are back in style

Subscription fashion retailer Stitch Fix has gone public, revealing a rare example of a new, private, technology-based company capable of making a profit 

Stitch Fix relies on the ‘mixed intelligence’ of algorithms and human stylists to offer its customers a curated fashion “Fix” of clothing and accessories, aiming to cut through some of the chaos of ecommerce  

Though Stitch Fix’s success is not guaranteed, there is much to be learned from its approach of focusing on building a solid business and generating positive earnings early, rather than growing users at any cost

  • Facebook
  • Google
Non-UK Media, Internet, Media, Technology, UK Media 15 January 2018
Italy’s Serie A desperately fighting football rights deflation

Results of the league’s new call for tender for its 2018-21 broadcasting rights will be unveiled on 22 January. The platform-based packaging was reviewed after last year’s aborted auction, apparently to accommodate loss-making Mediaset Premium, the participation of which remains nevertheless uncertain

Sky could keep its current satellite and internet coverage without increasing its outlay. We expect no major Telecom Italia (TI) or GAFA bid

Serie A seeks an unrealistic €1.05 billion per year (up 24%). If the auction results fall short, it hopes to sell rights to financial investors or, in a last resort, to launch its own channel – both ideas smacking of recklessness

  • Sky Italia
  • Telecom Italia
Media, TV 10 January 2018
Premier League auction developments: more is less

BT and Sky’s content cross-wholesaling deal much reduces their risks of losing packages in the upcoming Premier League auction, with most of the strategic platform value of exclusive sports rights now wiped out

The PL auction structure offers more games but less value, with the two smaller packages particularly unattractive, which cleverly nudges BT to retain a more expensive package, and thus most of its spending, if it wishes to downsize

While demand from all potential rights buyers appears weak, paying less money to retain the same position will be challenging for the incumbents Sky and BT given high minimum package prices, with courage necessary to force these minimums to be reassessed

  • BT
  • Sky
Media, TV, UK Media 9 January 2018
Video on demand insights: Netflix, Amazon and the iPlayer

Even with the decline in linear television viewing, online video remains a small component of total video consumption. The growth area is unsurprisingly SVOD; subscription video now makes up about two thirds of the UK's digital video spend.

Netflix is moving from an aggregator of content to a "channel" in its own right, increasing proportionate spend on original programming, something that the public service broadcasters are unable to do for differing reasons. Amazon had a tough 2017 for video, and are still struggling to create a hit.

New Nielsen audience data suggests that the long-term "library value" of Netflix's originals may be overstated, while the BBC's iPlayer continues to be hampered by not really having a library at all.

  • Amazon
  • BBC
  • Channel 4
  • Netflix
  • Sky
Media, TV 5 January 2018
Facebook's dwell time question at home

Almost half of Facebook’s impressive revenue growth and turnover is still reliant on the US, where user growth has slowed down

Among GAFA platforms, Facebook’s core business is the one most directly dependent on dwell time, but the metric for the crucial home market is clouded in mystery

The company has yet to create significant compensating revenue streams outside display advertising, raising the importance of international markets for Facebook’s future

  • Apple
  • Facebook
Media, Technology 5 January 2018
UK economy: same diagnosis, new prognosis

Both the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility have in the last month severely downgraded their view of the long-term underlying growth potential of the UK economy, reflecting a new forecasting consensus that the UK’s disastrous productivity performance post-crisis is not a blip but indicative of a disappointing new normal

The fundamentals of the UK economy, however, remain little altered from earlier this year – investment is weak, household finances are emaciated, people are compensating for weak productivity by simply working more and harder, and consumption growth is approaching its limits

The outlook for the next five years is bleak – earnings are in store for the longest squeeze in living memory and inequality is set to explode. Factoring in the risk of recession and/or of a disorderly Brexit transition, the BoE/OBR’s projections could yet seem over-optimistic

Brexit, Media, Public Policy 18 December 2017
Recruitment classified marketplace

A strong UK labour market, with record low unemployment but historically high vacancies, has supported growth in the recruitment industry, though trends may be peaking as we reach unknown territory. These trends play out in the recruitment market before they become apparent in the labour market

Despite the fragmentation of the online recruitment listings marketplace, Indeed is well-placed to dominate this space due to its increased scale and aggressive investment strategy

Both Google and Facebook have announced their intention to move into the recruitment listings sphere, which may have consequences not only for classified expenditure but further up the value chain with the agency model. However, both giants have attempted to move into online classifieds before, with little demonstrable success

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Jobsite
  • LinkedIn
  • Microsoft
Non-UK Media, Internet, Media, Mobile, Non UK Media, Technology, UK Media 15 December 2017
European mobile in Q3 2017: Still growing (just)

European mobile service revenue growth declined this quarter to 0.3%, likely due in large part to the increased negative impact from the European roaming surcharge cuts, which we estimate at around 0.5-1.0ppts for Europe as a whole

The continued growth was supported by continued ‘more-for-more’ price increases coupled with strong data volume growth. Partially countering this, there has been a step up in competition at the low end in some markets, often driven by the smaller operators

Looking forward, the negative EU roaming impact is likely to decline from next quarter given the end of the summer holiday season, and on balance we would expect positive price increase trends to overcome negative low end competitive trends, at least in the short term. This might change in 2018, as Iliad launches in Italy, and recently consolidated operators become more of a threat

  • BT
  • EE
  • France Telecom
  • Hutchison 3G
  • Iliad
  • O2
  • Orange
  • SFR
  • T-Mobile
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telefonica
Mobile, Telecoms 15 December 2017
Vertical marketplaces overview and property classified outlook

The slowing UK economy since Q3 2016 has had a knock-on effect on the property and autos marketplaces underlying UK classified advertising revenues, with house prices slowing, transactions stabilising (instead of rising), and new car registrations down sharply in 2017 to date. Recruitment activity by agencies and employers has instead been dynamic as the UK nears full employment

Advertisers in these verticals continue to switch expenditure from print classifieds to internet portals and search, which offer superior lead generation, analytics, and user experience. Only in property do local newspapers still fulfill an important estate agency branding function for the local area, although declining readership is blunting this value to advertisers

Portal dominance comes at a price to advertisers in property, where Rightmove has resisted agent efforts to lessen dependence by listing on other brands, as well as in used autos, where Auto Trader has long reigned supreme. Recruitment is a more contested market for portals, reflecting the diverse and fragmented nature of the jobs market, but Indeed has a strong grip on the low-end, while LinkedIn remains unchallenged in social recruitment advertising

  • Auto Trader
  • DMGT
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Rightmove
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology 14 December 2017
Auto classified marketplace

Print advertising in the autos classifieds marketplace keeps declining, but significant continued online growth steadies the helm

Five years on from new car financing innovations, and exasperated by changes in consumer behaviour towards greener tech, the used car market is braced for a flood

Auto Trader’s competitors force it to keep innovating, although having saturated the market, its dominance gives it enough headroom to worry about the weather breaking

  • Auto Trader
  • Facebook
  • Google
Non-UK Media, Media, Non UK Media 14 December 2017
UK online ad forecast 2017-2019: A grey digital market

We estimate that UK online ad spend grew by 12.3% this year, with growth concentrated almost exclusively in mobile search and social in-feed advertising (particularly video), and mostly incremental to overall ad spend

Even after payments to publishers and distributors, Google and Facebook captured 80% of all net new spend in the market, and 96% of it flowed through their platforms

Despite improving standardisation and disclosure, the outstanding issues around measurement, the ad-tech supply chain, and particularly the obscure and growing Google/Facebook/Amazon segment, lead us to identify a large portion of digital advertising as a “grey market”: difficult to get a handle on, with uncertain beneficiaries and slippery definitions

  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Google
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology, UK Media 13 December 2017
UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q3 2017: The ARPU challenge

UK residential communications market revenue growth dipped to 2.1% in Q3. While volume growth continued to decline, the main driver was weakening ARPU growth, which was partly caused by price rise timing effects but there was also an underlying contribution

Longer term, slowing market volume growth has contributed to the market revenue growth drop over the last year, but slowing ARPU growth is also playing its part, and maintaining ARPU growth is becoming a major challenge for the operators given the discounting required to win and retain customers

Looking forward, price rise timings will continue to cause short-term revenue growth fluctuations, but the main long-term factor will be the trajectory of subscriber ARPU, and whether any growth in this can be sustained

  • BT
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
Fixed Line, Media, Telecoms, UK Media 11 December 2017
UK mobile market Q3 2017: Returns to scale

Mobile service revenue growth dipped this quarter but this was likely entirely due to the predictable (and predicted) impact of the abolition of EU roaming surcharges.  On an underlying basis, growth improved

BT/EE extended its lead in both service revenue and contract subscriber growth terms. EE’s substantial investments in network quality and customer service have driven returns to scale, and its multi-brand approach is working well

Contrasting with the returns to scale seen at EE, TalkTalk’s MVNO has suffered the reverse of this, unable to break-even despite peaking at just shy of 1 million customers, and deciding to retreat to an agency model.  Sky Mobile is performing respectably well in context, but may be headed for scale issues itself

  • BT
  • EE
  • Hutchison 3G
  • O2
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms, Vodafone 8 December 2017
Children's changing video habits and implications for the content market

Children’s media use and attitudes have dramatically changed over the last few years, stemming from the rapid take-up of smartphones and tablets

Traditional TV continues to decline at the expense of newer video services such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, with 43% of children aged 8-15 preferring YouTube videos over TV programmes

These online services offer content producers wider opportunities, but questions remain around the lack of regulation online, and the recent scandal around children’s safety on YouTube has heightened these concerns

  • Amazon
  • BBC
  • Google
  • Netflix
  • Sky
  • Virgin Media
  • Walt Disney
  • YouTube
Media, TV, UK Media 8 December 2017
Vodafone Q2 2017/18 results: Revenue flat-ish, profits surge

Vodafone Europe’s revenue growth was very similar to the previous quarter at just under 1%, but this was impressive given the considerable drag of roaming cuts, with ‘more-for-more’ tariffs coupled with data volume growth driving underlying improvement

Flat-ish revenue was enough to send EBITDA surging 13%, or around 9% excluding some one-off distortions, driven by good cost control and falling handset costs, with this trend previously disguised by profitability issues in the UK

Looking forward, the question is whether Vodafone is doing enough to cope with future competitive threats. Competitive indicators (churn, NPS) have not improved; its new initiatives are quite mixed; and competitive intensity is likely to increase across a number of markets

  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms 5 December 2017
Iliad launching in Italy: Breaking the curse of the fourth operator?

Against the consolidation trend in the European market, France’s Iliad is to launch a fourth mobile network in Italy in the next few weeks, thanks to a roaming and frequency access agreement with Windtre — this deal allowed Wind and Tre to gain regulatory clearance for their merger

The model followed by Iliad’s Free Mobile in France since 2012 cannot be reproduced in Italy, where prices are already low and where it has no established brand reputation. Iliad’s owner Xavier Niel’s experience in oligopolistic Switzerland is of little relevance, and Germany’s Drillisch use of M&A to fill its capacity is not an option in Italy

Nevertheless Iliad has opportunities to seize in Italy where subscriber churn is the highest in Europe, customer service variable, and trust in telecoms brands very low. A credible consumer-friendly value offer could become a real alternative to the three incumbents, although distribution will still be a challenge

  • Iliad
Mobile, Telecoms 4 December 2017
Channel 5: three years on from Viacom's acquisition

Viacom’s 2014 acquisition of Channel 5 from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell occurred while the maelstrom encircling linear television viewing—sparked by the allure of SVODs and other digital distractions—was well underway

Nevertheless, with increased content spend, development of new titles and clarity as to its targeted audience, the broadcaster has increased its channel (and group) share amongst 16-34s and ABC1s, and has directed further benefits back to its owner's existing entertainment suite

Outside of the post-lunch and 8-10pm slots, however, work needs to be done: Channel 5’s BVOD proposition and social media offering leaves much to be desired, while the reliance on two major titles, Big Brother and Neighbours will be unsustainable in a post-linear world  

  • Channel 4
  • Five
  • Viacom
Media, TV 1 December 2017
TV set viewing trends: flat shares of a smaller pie

BARB data indicates that the amount of average daily TV set viewing to linear TV channels is continuing to fall: the pie is shrinking. Just under 20% of TV set usage so far in 2017 is to non-linear activity, and viewing to SVOD services and YouTube is likely to account for most of this growth in 'unmatched' viewing

The pie is shrinking faster amongst younger audiences: just under one third of TV set usage is 'unmatched' now for 16-34s. However 35+ unmatched use is growing at a faster rate than 16-34 unmatched use in 2017

Within this smaller pie, the PSB channels continue to hold share of viewing against pay channels. Within the PSBs, ITV and the ITV digital channel family have gained most share so far this year, although BBC1 is having a strong autumn in spite of the loss of Great British Bake Off to C4

  • BBC
  • Channel 4
  • Five
  • ITV
  • Netflix
  • Sky
  • UKTV
  • Virgin Media
  • YouTube
Media, TV 27 November 2017
UFC - pay-per-view heavyweight, subscription contender

The recent highly-publicised boxing match between UFC superstar Conor McGregor and boxing great Floyd Mayweather has not only broken UK records, but signified the rising status of the UFC into the mainstream of sports

The UFC has grown hugely in recent years. Its competition structure, appeal to younger audiences, and savvy marketing make it attractive to pay-TV broadcasters and an enticing proposition for Millennial and Gen-Z viewers 

However, with this heightened status, it may be beginning to face the same pitfalls as boxing and other sports, including a rapidly rising median viewing age and the pull of pay-per-view blockbuster events

  • BT
  • UKTV
Media, TV 24 November 2017
TalkTalk Group Q2 2017/18 results: Growth at a cost

TalkTalk continued to maintain positive broadband net adds in Q2 despite increased churn, and its on-net revenue growth turned positive as well, helped by the turnaround in subscriber growth trends and an overlapping price increase implemented during the quarter

The return to growth is taking its toll in marketing costs however, and the company is now guiding to a full year ‘headline’ EBITDA at the lower end of its previous given range, and this is after redefining ‘headline’ to exclude losses from its winding-down mobile business

Even this looks challenging given the cost trends in the first half of the year. The company’s new strategy of subscriber growth and focusing on the basics is probably the right one, but it is proving tough to implement in a slowing and increasingly competitive market

 

  • TalkTalk
Media, Mobile, Telecoms, UK Media 23 November 2017

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