Mobile growth dipped again to -3.3% for what we hope is the final time as widespread lockdowns impacted paid-for usage in most countries.

BT and Vodafone joined the other European MNOs in guiding to improving trends in 2021—expecting EBITDA momentum to be 7-10ppts better—slightly ahead of the 5-7ppts for the European operators.

We may even see positive revenue growth next quarter thanks to the simple annualisation of the first lockdown, with the UK the most to gain and Germany and Italy the least. Investment is creeping up too with higher capex guidance and better 5G momentum.

In a new chapter of a three year saga, the Ligue 1 awarded eight weekly games to Amazon for the 2021-24 seasons at a rock bottom price of €250 million per year, while Canal+ is left paying €330 million for only two fixtures per week.

Amazon makes a qualitative leap to become the lead broadcaster of a top domestic sport for the first time, probably reflecting more opportunism than a strategic shift.

Canal+ is asking courts to cancel the auction. Based on precedents, we expect the shift to undermine the total market for sport subscriptions.

A channel dedicated to personality-led opinion breaks from TV’s strong range of rolling news, bulletins and standalone debate programmes. Conceptually GB News is more like talk radio: audiences can dip in at any time of day to hear takes on stories.

A linear launch—especially one based on a new interpretation of Ofcom’s due impartiality rules—has generated headlines, but the stark commercial reality of sustaining TV news by itself remains.

Its own linear audience and paying member forecasts are optimistic for a service with limited prominence and a streamlined budget, though profitability may not be its only measure of success.

Three lockdowns since March 2020 greatly reduced mobility in Greater London, an area with high reliance on public transport. Risk aversion even reduced mobility in cities like Seoul and Auckland that effectively contained the virus.

The concentration of air pollutants in the Greater London area dropped 50% below the 2019 baseline level in March 2020, remaining below baseline for much of the period since, despite increasing road vehicle traffic. The biggest rises in air quality occurred in wealthier boroughs like Richmond, a glaring inequality.

Another stark inequality of the pandemic is the much higher share of residents of wealthier boroughs than poorer ones able to stay at home, also saving more precious time by reduced trips to the workplace. These benefits are much less available to low-income, and disproportionately BAME, residents of London, often essential workers.

The last lockdown caused service revenues to dip again to -7% in spite of some easing of roaming pressure and the annualisation of some early pandemic weakness.

The heralded, elevated in-contract price rises will fail to drive higher growth this year due to lower inflation—we estimate zero impact at BT/EE relative to 2020 and a reduction in revenue momentum of around 0.5ppts for each of the other operators.

The annualisation of the first lockdown is the most meaningful upside from here with a boost of around 5-7ppts possible. However, some pandemic upsides will also unwind, notably lower churn and enhanced B2B demand with the latter vulnerable to the end of furlough support and the economy.

The consumer books market has flourished during the pandemic: following early worries, publishers are reporting strong growth and profits

However, bookshops, the most important point of contact between the industry and readers, are facing their toughest challenge yet as ecommerce booms and continued home-working saps high street footfall                                                   

Publishers and authors are embracing new, online ways of promoting titles. These will require new ways of working, and are not substitutes for dedicated shops, which must be protected as much as possible

Market revenue growth improved to -1.4% in Q1 2021, a partial recovery being better than at any point in 2020, but still worse than at any point in 2019.

Next quarter the sports channel suspensions will lap out, driving strong (but temporary) year-on-year growth.

Longer-term revenue growth recovery will need backbook pricing pressure relief, which will start in Q2, and demand for ultrafast broadband.

The Warner-Discovery and TF1-M6 merger plans have dramatically pushed consolidation up European commercial television’s agenda.

The first path—heralded by Bertelsmann’s RTL Group—would aim at creating
national broadcasters with the content scale to operate compelling online platforms.

An alternative path revives the never achieved idea of pan-European synergies,
leveraging increased international appetite for non-English language content—but
its champion, Italy’s Mediaset, lacks capacity to deliver. 

Vodafone’s additional investment to boost a growth story that isn’t yet delivering failed to impress investors who value cashflow much more than promises for tomorrow, particularly given Vodafone’s track record with restructuring plans and product development.

It’s a surprising time to be splashing the cash with leverage still finely balanced and riding on Vodafone delivering a 10ppt turnaround in EBITDA growth next year vs last. Commercial activity looks set to continue to be dominated by EBITDA promises.

Selling a stake in Vantage Towers (temporarily) solved a leverage problem, but is creating a control problem, with the uncertain level of its future capex adding to investor concerns.

The highlight of what seems set to be O2’s final results as a standalone company is OIBDA growth of almost 8% in spite of a drag from weaker net adds.

It has also been a good quarter for O2 strategically with preliminary merger approval and contiguous 5G spectrum although that may be matched by its peers in subsequent deals given H3G’s openness to negotiation.

The annualisation of COVID impacts as well as an improving mobility picture will provide a significant boost to trends, although the roaming drag seems unlikely to reverse any time soon and O2’s relative growth will suffer from lower in-contract price rises than peers this spring.