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Rigorous Fearless Independent

This report is free to access

Climate change is a core theme of this year’s Media and Telecoms 2021 & Beyond Conference, linking to the UK's presidency of COP26 in 2021, the UN’s 26th climate change conference.

Since 2015, the Paris Agreement frames mankind’s collective effort to address climate change by reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases (GHG), to limit warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, aiming for 1.5°C. The UK is committed to achieve this target and seeks, alongside other nations, to reduce its GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.

The UK, like other participants, will deliver net zero through mandatory carbon footprint reduction activities, an important component of which are businesses. This report profiles the carbon footprints of companies in the TMT sector, which are light in the case of most media companies, and heavier for telcos, which build and run network infrastructure.

An easy win we advocate for the TMT sector is to adopt a hybrid model for work on the back of pandemic-related work-from-home (WFH) practices, reducing office estates and commuting, permanently cutting the footprint.

The pandemic shows working from home is economically feasible in the UK, thanks to telco networks, platforms and services, disproving employers’ largely negative pre-existing views. WFH will also add value to office workers, about half of which support a hybrid model for the future. It liberates precious time from the commute, makes the office integral to value creation, and prevents carbon from being wasted.

Subscriber growth is down but the benefits from COVID-19 have been banked and are enduring. The pandemic pulled forward new subscribers, delayed churn and higher engagement allowed price rises to be pushed through—ARPU in US/Canada, for example has now risen 74 cents in one quarter (to $14.25).

Is the Netflix narrative beginning to change from subscriber adds to engagement? As markets mature the obvious metric that could drive a corporate narrative is engagement, which is higher on Netflix than competitors and growing.

Netflix still lacks tentpole IP in a competitive space. However, the new deal with Sony conceivably gives Netflix access to IP such as Spider-ManKarate KidGhostbustersJumanji and Venom.

Europe’s larger MNOs are falling over each other to demonstrate support for OpenRAN, which has become a primarily operator-driven standards initiative, with governments also firmly behind it.

This is driven by a desire to improve equipment interoperability from the current de facto monolithic standards, improve supplier diversity, and ultimately drive down cost.

While some movement towards interoperability is perhaps overdue, OpenRAN is not a panacea, and some trade-offs between price, performance, supplier diversity and reliability have to be accepted.

Mobile revenue growth improved slightly to -3% this quarter, primarily thanks to a weakening in the drag from the loss of roaming.

European MNOs are guiding to improving trends in 2021—broadly stable revenues and EBITDA vs declines of 5-7% in 2020. This bodes well for guidance from the UK players around mid-May.

However, the outlook is far from rosy, with Q1 2021 still very challenging ahead of an annualisation of the pandemic drags from the June quarter. Growth prospects remain contingent on the resumption of travel and the economic climate.

Francois said he could not see the clubs being expelled from domestic leagues because it would “hurt everybody” involved.

He added “We are in a hypothetical scenario of these clubs being expelled – I can’t see this happening because it will hurt everybody. But if this were to happen of course the broadcasters would come and say ‘we will pay less, you changed the product so we want to review the price."

“I don’t see how this new league would increase the pot, so at best you would capture money that’s going to the Champions League and possibly there would be a transfer of spending by broadcasters from a national leagues to this new league.”

Debt-ridden ‘insurgent’ clubs seek salvation in golden combination of control of the competition, end of relegation and new financing sources.

The Super League amounts to a hostile takeover bid for the Champions League.

The project’s impact on the value of broadcasting rights could be somewhere between neutral and negative. The Premier League and Ligue 1 auctions could hardly be held under the current uncertain climate.

James said £180m a year would be saved by shifting Virgin Mobile’s network to O2, despite a recent deal for Vodafone to underpin the service. He believes about £100m in tax benefits are there for the taking by “netting O2’s profits against accumulated losses at Virgin Media."

He added “Switching [Virgin Mobile’s network] and backhaul supply is complicated but routine work for a telco. Merging customer service and sales is complicated and a big job, but the extent to which they will merge these is unclear. They can keep them fairly separate indefinitely.”