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Rigorous Fearless Independent

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Climate change is again a core theme of this year’s Media and Telecoms 2023 & Beyond Conference, as it has been since 2021 when the UK hosted COP26.

Published in March 2023, the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report points to alarming warming trends due to rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Echoing the messaging of COP26 and COP27, the IPCC implores signatories: “Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C.” With many governments stymied by short-term political exigencies, it is businesses and people that must harbour the ambition for net zero that our planet requires. 

This year’s report highlights the climate change initiatives of TMT companies to decarbonise operations, and their society-leading role towards the environment. Media businesses are mobilising their touchpoints with their audiences—from news, to magazines, to audio-visual productions such as films, TV programmes, games and advertising—to inform and win over hearts and minds in favour of climate action. Case studies of the Guardian, WPP, Ad Net Zero, Bertelsmann, Vivendi, Sky, BT Group, and Virgin Media O2 provide best practice learnings.

The German football league has suspended its media rights auction after protests by DAZN over the award of the top package.

DAZN surprised the market by aiming to become the Bundesliga’s primary broadcaster.

The situation in Germany reveals the contradictory impulses weighing on leagues at rights auctions.

Big news publishers are pursuing licensing deals with AI companies, chiefly OpenAI. Not all publishers will see a substantial return; while some news may be important for training AI models, not all publisher content will be.

Litigation is a threat point when negotiations stall (see the New York Times), but the copyright status of Large Language Models (LLMs) is uncertain. In the UK, there has been no government intervention (on copyright or otherwise) that could facilitate licensing.

Publishers’ bargaining position is strongest when it comes to up-to-date material that could be important in powering some AI consumer products. They should seek deals to support their journalism, while bearing in mind the risk that new products may get between them and their readers.

Despite the changes, BBC Two is still regularly watched by more than half the TV-viewing public every month and its five per cent share compares favourably with rivals. “You’re still talking about millions of people watching,” says Tom Harrington of the media company Enders Analysis. “You compare it to 10 or 15 years ago and there’s a decline, but that’s still a lot of people.”

Netflix's Q1 revenue was up 15% YoY (to $9.4 billion) bolstered by firm global subscriber growth and the continued momentum of 'paid sharing'. Operating margin is forecast to be 25% across this year (up from 21% in 2023)—approaching the realms of legacy linear media—but transparency will be diluted as the company stops reporting subscribers and ARPU

UK subscriptions and overall engagement are mostly flat; growth by older viewers is masking declines by the young

Even with the strikes driving viewing towards UK content, licensed programming remains a relatively minor factor in Netflix’s library

“The New York Times is not becoming a gaming company any more than the acquisition of the Athletic would imply they are becoming a sports company,” said Gareth Sutcliffe, an analyst for the market research service Enders Analysis. “NYT is simply acknowledging that being a broad generalist spells death online, and they have prioritized and valued the means of addressing that.”

In a note to clients last July, the media analysts Enders suggested strong profitability in 2023 could justify a valuation of £740m for The Telegraph alone, implying that a package with The Spectator could be worth £800m. In the immediate aftermath of its raid on last year’s auction, RedBird IMI won praise in US media circles for bagging the pair for only £600m.

Football leagues must think innovatively about maintaining broad exposure, but relying on advertising revenues from free-to-air TV makes no economic sense.

Creating league-operated direct-to-consumer platforms would undermine the very competition between broadcasters that has propelled rights.

The only realistic option for sustainable growth is deeper, longer-term partnerships with broadcasters.