UK pay-TV in 2009: recession and competition concerns

Leading pay-TV operators Sky and Virgin Media (VMed) have shown little sign of recessionary damage in 2008 and the outlook for Q1 2009 remains positive. Difficulties are apparent at complementary pay-TV service provider Setanta

Ofcom’s pay-TV investigation enters its final stages in 2009. Ofcom faces a formidable challenge to devise a workable wholesale must-offer solution for premium film and sports content that fosters competition across all platforms

Sky FY 2009 Q3 results: recession-resistant

Another strong quarter of pay-TV subscriber growth, marked by record Sky+ HD sales, indicated continued resistance to recessionary pressures, supported by flat costs other than those associated with accelerated HD take-up

Results for the telecoms business again displayed strong volume growth in an increasingly difficult market. But original guidance for broadband subscribers, breakeven and standalone IRR looks challenging

Setanta: sink, float or swim?

Against current annual losses in the order of £100 million, Setanta has the whole of June in which to attract the necessary investment that will allow it to continue. The alternative is closure

As complementary supplier of premium sports channels to Sky, Setanta has been more vulnerable to recessionary pressures, but it is not in the interest of any of its existing competitors/business associates for it to cease operations

Sky leads race for Virgin Media's VMtv

According to press reports, Sky has lodged a bid of about £160 million for the VMtv content arm of Virgin Media (VMed), estimated to be 50-60% higher than other offers in the latest and final round of the bidding contest

At TalkTalk Group (TTG) net broadband additions for the quarter were relatively strong, given likely market growth, probably due at least in part to reduced subscriber loss at AOL UK

In our view cut-price business broadband, rather than IPTV, offers the best prospect of profitable revenue growth in fixed line

Ofcom statement on LLU pricing: gently does it

Ofcom’s recent statement on LLU pricing has increased the amount which BT Openreach can charge unbundlers for full LLU over the next two years by about 8% overall

We estimate the changes will raise BT group EBITDA by less than 1% over the two years to March 2011

TalkTalk Group’s recent retail price increase is more than enough to offset the impact of Ofcom’s ruling on its annual EBITDA to March 2010, but the ruling could still take 5% off annual EBITDA to March 2011

Ofcom pay-TV consultation: end of round three

There is a reasonable chance that, by the middle of 2010, Ofcom will introduce regulations concerning the availability and pricing of wholesale premium movie and sports content, as outlined in its third pay-TV consultation released on 26th June 2009

The Ofcom wholesale remedy proposals are likely to provide rival retailers to Sky with modest benefits in new customer acquisition and customer retention in the first three years, whilst opening up the prospect of wider competition as the broadband infrastructure develops

ESPN and Sky - The new complementary premium sports duo

According to recent speculation, Sky stands to benefit materially in the short-term from the replacement of Setanta by ESPN, but could suffer from rights inflation and worse in the longer term should ESPN become really successful

ESPN’s commitment to a pure wholesale channel distribution model across all platforms and lower outlay on rights gives a real chance of building a viable business where Setanta failed

Sky Songs: Does the music get any cheaper?

Just-launched Sky Songs offers a ‘new’ online music model, combining on- demand streaming with credit towards DRM-free downloads, for a single monthly payment

Sky Songs combines the best features of Spotify and iTunes, with lower average per track prices for in-bundle downloads, which will appeal to the music purchaser, and drive industry revenues provided regular use is made of the service

Sky Songs is backed by the power of Sky’s brand, serving the UK’s most entertainment-conscious clientele, with initial promotions targeting Sky’s 2.2 million broadband customers


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