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Rigorous Fearless Independent

Italy's Serie A could award its 2021-24 broadcasting rights tomorrow to either Sky or DAZN (backed by TIM) for a fee significantly down on the previous cycle.

Either outcome looks good for Sky: increasing coverage at a lower fee, or pivoting to aggregation as DAZN will need to access Sky’s subscriber base.

DAZN and its ally TIM are also shifting strategy, but with weak rationale. The Italian auction reinforces our expectation of a drop in Premier League fees in the imminent British tender.

In a challenging media marketplace, quality online news services generated hundreds of thousands of new buyers in 2020, perhaps inching ahead of print in terms of UK household propensity-to-pay.

But reader-first models are not only about subscriptions. The UK’s first national print title to go online-only, The Independent, has achieved operating profits since reconfiguring its cost base in 2016.

The Independent defies many investor assumptions about news. Solutions for smaller businesses may diverge more from industry giants than is commonly expressed, and without distribution change, editorial, product and commercial transformation is slower.

Tom said "But one thing that's changed [since the Sorokin deal and since the pandemic] is that platforms can now create their own viral stories. With so many people watching, they can take a piece of programming, put it at the top of their platform, and make it a hit. Look at Tiger King, that guy had talked to loads of people before, but Netflix made it international, so everyone was talking about it at the same time."

Google is demonstrating support for news by stepping up its efforts to license content from publishers and provide unpaywalled access within its Google News app—an attempt to diffuse regulatory pressure.

The issue of incentives to sustain scale businesses that originate and distribute high quality news in the digital era is still left unanswered.

Facebook has taken an opposite strategy, banning the sharing of news in Australia on their platforms—a risky, yet calculated move.

Douglas said "Public policy processes that start by naming the companies always really worry me because this isn’t about Google and Facebook, it’s about search and social media distribution techniques.The problem is if you design something for Google, you’ve then got to design something else for the next business that comes along.”

He added “The question that’s been raised in Australia is very similar to a question that’s been raised in the UK. One of the points we made in the Cairncross Review was incredibly simple… which is that one of the things a democracy should do is make sure that there are incentives in place for quality news origination."