Publications

Format: Dec 2017
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Sector(s) Datesort ascending
European mobile in Q4 2015 - The challengers' challenge

European mobile service revenue growth was flat at -0.8%, while underlying country movements were somewhat more dramatic. The key highlights were Italy returning to positive growth driven by pricing stability, and France showing worsening growth decline for the first time in over two years impacted by challenger telco pricing cuts

An assessment of these challenger telcos highlights a somewhat precarious position, as continued price aggression yields diminishing incremental gains, and they all remain some way from gaining the scale to achieve profitability

The only incentive for challengers to remain aggressive is as an encouragement for their competitors to buy them; increasing regulatory hurdles to consolidation would remove even this incentive, leaving price increases as their only rational route to profitability

  • EE
  • France Telecom
  • Hutchison 3G
  • Iliad
  • O2
  • Orange
  • SFR
  • T-Mobile
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telefonica
  • Telia Sonera
  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms 12 April 2016
Netflix close to the promised land

Record growth in 2015 shows Netflix to be well on its way to achieving its goal of 60-90 million US streaming customers, while the latest wave of international expansion suggests Netflix will at least double its global base to over 150 million streaming customers by 2020

Much has been said about the growing SVOD competition from Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Disney and many others, but the simplicity and single-mindedness of the Netflix model is hard to beat, with evidence suggesting it has extended its lead in the toughest of markets, the US

Although growing spend on content origination is putting a strain on the Netflix business, it is critical to long-term success, contributing to the distinctiveness of the Netflix offer and its complementariness with other SVOD services

  • Netflix
Media, TV 11 April 2016
UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q4 2015: Diversified growth

The UK residential communications market maintained strong growth of 6% in Q4, helped by overlapping price increases at BT and TalkTalk, albeit mitigated by weaker volume growth as a result of the TalkTalk cyber-attack

This strong growth level benefits from multiple factors, including continually growing broadband adoption, broadband ARPU being boosted by the shift to superfast, price increases across line rental, calls and premium pay TV, and additional pay TV adoption at the lower end

We expect a modest dip in market revenue growth moving into 2016 as various one-off boosts drop out, but the underlying drivers of growth are sufficiently diversified to give us confidence that further downside is limited

  • BT
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
Fixed Line, Telecoms 7 April 2016
OTT Home Entertainment in the UK

Netflix gained 1.8 million accounts in the course of 2015 (+37%) to 5.2 million, surpassing the 1.3 million VOD-enabled homes added by fixed line telcos Sky (including NowTV), Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk. SVOD homes overlap with pay-TV accounts, and are topping up content for family members, not cord-cutting

Amazon Prime Instant Video, bundled into Prime, looks set to balloon from 1.6 million users in Q4 2015 on the back of the marketing of Jeremy Clarkson's motoring show, cementing its position in home entertainment by serving a family-friendly eco-system of devices and media, leveraging its mammoth 25% share of UK e-commerce

Free-to-the-user YouTube remains the heavyweight with 35 million monthly unique users in the UK, although skewing strongly to Millennials, while those 55+ will take longer to move beyond catch-up TV to embrace a wider range of VOD options

  • Amazon
  • Netflix
  • Sky
  • YouTube
Internet, Media, Technology 6 April 2016
Sky's originals - seeking iconic differentiation

Sky is steadily expanding its output of scripted content – now almost at the same volume as HBO’s. It is an attempt to strengthen the Sky brand in a more competitive market, the ultimate prize being exclusive association with ‘iconic’ content

So far so good: in the UK most originals deliver higher audiences than average and than US imports. Emergence of an iconic hit may be just a matter of time. Sky’s Italian productions are closer to the domestic hit status, but harder to sell to British viewers

The challenge for Sky is to stay in the global series budget race through US co-production and sales without compromising editorial sharpness. Continental European platforms increase Sky’s financial clout, but will require distinct content

  • Sky
  • Sky Deutschland
  • Sky Italia
Media 1 April 2016
UK mobile market Q4 2015: Growth softly softens

UK mobile service revenue growth dipped down in Q4, but at least remained still just positive at 0.3%. The dip was driven by contract ARPU weakness at the largest three operators, mitigated by strong ARPU growth at the smallest operator H3G

Looking forward, the sources of weakness (growth of SIM-only and tariff policy adjustments) look more temporary than the sources of growth (data volume growth filling up capacity). SIM-only is likely to hit a natural ceiling, whereas data volume growth has no ceiling in sight and the scope for network capacity expansion is limited

With CK Hutchison currently negotiating with the European Commission in regards to the fate of the H3G and O2 merger, there is a high level of uncertainty on the future of the structure of the UK mobile market. Merging the two networks would generate extra capacity and capability, likely increasing competitive intensity, but the precise form this would take is unclear, as is the future of the brands and the identity of the capacity MVNO recipient(s)

  • BT
  • EE
  • Hutchison 3G
  • O2
  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms 30 March 2016
Apple's iPhone bargain

More attractively priced than previous entry level iPhones, the new SE extends Apple’s smartphone lineup down towards the mid-price segment to better compete with Android over price-sensitive users

At a time of investor concern over slowing down iPhone unit sales, the SE marks the first shift in Apple’s strategic calculus for the iPhone from gross margins to unit volumes

SE supports the iOS ecosystem in a crucial period of growth for mobile payment services, making the entire iPhone roster Apple Pay compatible

  • Apple
  • Google
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology 23 March 2016
The rise of platforms and news distribution

News publishers have emerging opportunities for content distribution due to 1) the transition from desktop to mobile and 2) a renewed interest on the part of tech platforms in news content as a driver of usage

Realising digital advertising revenues is highly challenging for news publishers, who are increasingly focused on long-term membership models; this raises the question of engagement with tech platforms as a means to boost digital advertising and subscriptions

The balance of risks and opportunities of such engagement is not yet clear. With usage flowing to platforms, most major publishers are now taking the position that the loss of control associated with getting on board is a necessary evil

  • Apple
  • BBC
  • Facebook
  • Google
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology, UK Media 22 March 2016
Ofcom's Digital Communications Review: Blessed are the investors

Ofcom is encouraging competitive investment in local access networks using BT’s ducts and poles; in our view this is very unlikely to happen on a large scale, due to both the lack of spare capacity in existing plant and the generally poor prospective economics of a third local access network in the UK

Ofcom’s favoured model for Openreach is an enhanced version of the current structural separation model, and this is most likely to be reached via a negotiated settlement with BT; this and a number of other proposed measures, if implemented, will increase Openreach’s costs, and these costs will be re-charged to both BT’s retail division and its DSL competitors

Ofcom remains keen to retain four mobile network operators, in spite of clear evidence that at most three are viable at current retail price levels, and it is keen to implement a number of interventionist consumer protection measures that suggest it is keen on competition in theory, but not so much in practice

  • BT
  • Hutchison 3G
  • O2
  • Ofcom
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Virgin Media
Fixed Line, Mobile, Telecoms 21 March 2016
Blocking in the free world: the threat of online ad blocking

Currently at a manageable level, ad blocking has the potential to fatally undermine the business models of media owners that depend on advertising, as well as restricting advertisers’ ability to reach audiences online.

To head off this threat, publishers, agencies and advertisers need to understand the diverse things that users do not like about digital advertising, fix them, and communicate this change of behaviour to audiences.

The move from desktop to mobile, from banner to native and from web to apps provides advertisers and publishers with the opportunity to provide an acceptable advertising experience, ensuring that blocking of these new formats and properties never reaches the threatening levels currently on desktop.

  • Google
Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology 16 March 2016
Virtual reality in 2016: Launch year challenges

Virtual Reality (VR) is hitting the high street as the first premium headsets with mass-market appeal become available for developers and consumers

Core gamers are the initial focus of content developers for the new VR platforms served on top-end PCs and Sony’s PS4 console

The VR ecosystems of Facebook and Google are focused on user-generated 360 degree video content, whereas professional creation tools, workflows, and delivery infrastrucure will likely take several years of experiments to mature

Media, Mobile, Technology, TV 14 March 2016
H3G and O2: Merging thoughts

H3G and O2 are planning for their UK merger to create a mobile-only operator that leads the market in network quality and capacity, taking a contrary approach to the current trend of fixed/mobile convergent strategies

The merger would ease the severe spectral capacity constraints currently faced by both operators, and ease the scale disadvantage suffered by H3G ever since its launch in 2003, allowing a much stronger long term competitor

Post-merger, the UK mobile market will likely end up just as competitive as it is now, with pricing pressure actually more likely to continue into the medium term, and plenty of opportunities and threats for all the main players as the environment re-aligns

  • Hutchison 3G
  • O2
Mobile, Telecoms 11 March 2016
The sleeping giant wakes into DisneyLife

Disney surprised few with the launch of the SVOD service DisneyLife in the UK in November 2015, unlike its subsequent push into China

This could be seen as a mitigating strategy in face of partner streaming services beginning to invest increasingly in original content. But it also provides Disney with a streaming presence from which to build, or add spice to future licensing negotiations

Despite finding itself behind in the SVOD audience race, global affection for Disney, a typically handsome platform and a targeted roll-out should see success

  • Walt Disney
Media, TV 10 March 2016
Programmatic advertising in the mobile era

Programmatic advertising has come a long way in its first two decades: it is still used predominantly for direct response marketing, but mobile has opened up new possibilities in display

After early problems on open exchanges, programmatic online display budgets are turning to more controlled environments, with Facebook the biggest winner so far

With direct response budgets already spent largely on programmatic, most room for further growth would be in large-audience brand display – a field where the benefits of programmatic are yet to be demonstrated

Media, Mobile, Technology 7 March 2016
Closing in on 50-50 the right way - ITV FY 2015 results

ITV has delivered double-digit growth in adjusted EBITA for the sixth year running, marked by big increases in both TV NAR (Net Advertising Revenue) and non-TV NAR revenues, which now make up nearly 50% of the total

The outlook for 2016 is promising. We expect continuing real growth in ITV family NAR in line with the market average, and further substantial increases in both Online, Pay & Interactive and ITV Studios

The big question is how ITV can sustain all it has achieved with the international expansion of ITV Studios and use its growing scale to support growth in its Online, Pay & Interactive revenues abroad as well as in the UK

  • ITV
Media, TV, UK Media 7 March 2016
Native advertising in Europe to 2020

Native advertising is growing sharply as a result of the shift in digital audiences and consumption to mobile devices, where limited screen size and usage modes favour formats that mirror the form or function of the platform and media

Publishers and advertisers are moving rapidly to exploit the opportunity. Publishers see unique native formats as a way to distinguish their ad offering in a highly commoditised internet advertising space, while advertisers and their agencies hope to get more bang for their buck

Between 2015 and 2020, we expect native advertising spend across Western Europe to grow by 156% to €13 billion, representing 52% of internet display and three quarters of net growth in internet display

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Yahoo
Non-UK Media, Internet, Media, Mobile, Technology, UK Media 1 March 2016
Channel 4 viewing trends and sustainability

The Government is exploring the privatisation option for future Channel 4 ownership on account of its concerns about the sustainability of the Channel 4 business model in light of recent viewing trends

Channel 4’s focus on 16-34s has put it under extra pressure, but the topline figures do not remotely tell the true story. 2010-2013 was a period of disruption due to special factors. Little decline has occurred since, and Channel 4 group 16-34 and peak time viewing shares have held firm since 2010

As for revenues, the trading dynamics of UK TV advertising have seen audience loss more than matched by increased spend, benefiting both Channel 4 and ITV. This is not about to change, while BBC3 closure and Channel 4 digital video growth will reinforce the financial sustainability of Channel 4, now delivering its remit better than ever

  • Channel 4
Media, TV, UK Media 1 March 2016
Trinity Mirror starts New Day

Trinity Mirror is launching a national newspaper, New Day, into a challenging marketplace: declining volumes of -7%, and the loss of £121m (-9%) in advertising in 2015 alone

New Day has been inspired by market research into lapsed newspaper buyers. While consumer behaviour is largely driven by a shift to digital, mobile and social media distributed news, some consumers want a different print product from anything in the marketplace

In digital, New Day eschews the need for a website or App, focusing on social media to market the product; a rare example of a strategy that does not blur or compromise print and digital objectives

  • DMGT
  • News UK
  • Trinity Mirror
Media 26 February 2016
A future for tablet publishing? La Presse case study

Montreal’s La Presse follows a unique tablet-focussed, free access, fast track digital strategy. It said adieu to weekday print editions in December. An in-house developed app – La Presse+ – sets new benchmarks: advertising friendly, easy to navigate, and engaging

High ABC1 market share in French speaking Quebec helped build digital scale rapidly. La Presse+ has broken circulation records thanks to an influx of younger readers. Advertising is sold at a premium to print and the newsroom has expanded

In a tougher market The Toronto Star launched the app last September with positive initial results. The Star Touch approach is additive rather than substitutional to print and may be more relevant to newspapers elsewhere. Slower tablet penetration growth is no big worry as phone screen sizes increase and PCs converge towards tablets

Media 24 February 2016
Lightning strikes: Virgin Media Q4 2015 results

Project Lightning is showing clear signs of success, running ahead of new premises targets with ARPU and penetration levels in line with expectations, which helped deliver the strongest organic RGU performance in over seven years, and could add c1% to revenue growth in 2016

Recent performance, though strong, was not immune to the rivalry of Sky and BT, with efforts to manage profitability in the face of inflated sports content rights costs in turn yielding tension at the subscriber level; we anticipate round two when the 2016/17 Premier League kicks off in August

Mobile revenue growth was relatively weak and quad play penetration fell, but the H3G/O2 merger in the UK may provide an option to improve its mobile wholesale deal, and the cable/mobile JV in the Netherlands with Vodafone points to a possible similar deal in the UK in the longer term

  • Liberty Global
  • Virgin Media
Fixed Line, Telecoms 23 February 2016

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