The boost from annualising the COVID-19 hit dissipated this quarter with service revenues flat-lining at –2.5%. The year-on-year mobility boost weakened and pandemic upsides of lower churn, cost savings and B2B demand unwound.

Q4 looks mixed with an improving year-on-year mobility boost but further unwinding of some pandemic upsides. Spring 2022 has the potential to be the long-awaited panacea with price rises of up to 8% and the prospect of renewed roaming revenues.

The operators continue to seek sources of market repair through price rises (to compensate for regulatory intervention elsewhere) and consolidation—but with little visible support from policymakers as yet.

DMGT prepares to end its tenure as a plc, as the Rothermere family finalise a takeprivate offer of £2.9 billion (c. 18.8x EBITDA) and make a swathe of new appointments as it seeks to reconfigure the business

The Daily Mail newspaper is the crown jewel in the company’s assets, as the wider portfolio has recentred around consumer media

The road ahead is still foggy, with a rickety bridge between its print and online brands—a strategic risk for DMGT, yet also a key opportunity in UK media

 

Google and Roku are battling over the terms that YouTube is carried on connected TV (CTV) platforms—one of many power struggles over who gets what share of a booming CTV market.

Roku has invoked competition concerns over Google’s conduct. However, current laws and proposed legislation are unlikely to cover this disagreement, which should instead be seen as a standard business negotiation.

Various companies are looking to fill the CTV platform space, not least Google and Amazon. If Roku’s tough negotiating tactics threaten its customers’ access to content, it could find it difficult to maintain its platform foothold.

The UK’s Q3 GDP growth paints a picture of stolid recovery, leaving GDP still 2.1% below the pre-pandemic peak in early 2020. We expect Q4 will be much stronger, mainly due to booming retail—very beneficial to advertising growth—and returning the economy to peak GDP early in 2022

We predict record highs for retail sales in Q4 with volumes surging on the back of base effects in the previous year, seasonal highs, and ongoing work-from-home (WFH) practices, compounded by a 6-8% YoY increase in retail prices, which could yield up to 14-16% sales value growth

Aside from fizzing retail, the economy enters 2022 facing headwinds from bubbling CPI inflation as energy prices surge on global markets, higher prices for food and other essentials, and Brexit-induced shortages of labour and goods that are hard to alleviate in this island’s economy

Google has lost its appeal of the European Commission’s antitrust ruling of 2017 that it had abused its position in general search to favour Google Shopping, its Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) channel for merchants, in relation to price comparison aggregators. 

Since the case was lodged in 2010, price comparison has receded as the key to consumers’ online purchases, also motivated by influencers, reviews, and browsing. Merchants use YouTube and Instagram to build brands, Facebook to launch products, and Google Shopping as the key alternative to Amazon for direct response.

The EU’s antitrust regime has once more solved yesterday’s problem, but this will shift for Big Tech to an ex-ante regime when the landmark Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act come on-stream.

 

Ofcom has approved the relaunch of BBC Three as a linear channel in February, and mandated that it will appear within the first 24 slots of electronic programme guides. The 2016 cost-cutting move online saw a loss of about 75% of viewing of BBC Three content

The linear relaunch has the potential to actually lower viewing of the channel's biggest shows. Transmission on BBC One and Two is the overriding driver of reach and discovery of all BBC Three's recent long-form shows, bar perhaps Normal People and RuPaul's Drag Race UK; the new channel will have lower prominence

Giving the channel a home of its own allows it to make the content it really needs to. Currently commissioning has the twin purpose of finding approval with the young whilst also holding up a proportion of the BBC One schedule. These are contradictory intentions

Overall radio listening remains robust and continues to make up the majority of audio time, however a worrying decline in both reach and hours amongst younger people makes further innovation necessary

Shifting audio distribution trends driven by digital and IP listening, as well as the increasing influence of smart speakers and connected devices, represent significant challenges for the radio industry going forward

Strong collaboration and regulatory support will be needed to reconnect with elusive younger listeners, prevent US tech companies from becoming de-facto gatekeepers, and preserve the public value at the core of the UK radio industry

Vodafone’s leverage issue continues to drive its strategy and operational focus, as evidenced in its H1 results with solid EBITDA but lacklustre revenues.

Its leverage crisis is severely exacerbated by the prospect of a fibre build in Germany as well as a sizeable headwind to its cable business momentum there. Further sell-downs at Vantage will help and we view the prospects of consolidation as slightly improved, with Spain the most promising option.

Growth in the UK appears to be on hold and the outlook is mixed with VMO2’s notice for early termination for its MVNO, ongoing B2B weakness expected but significant inflation-linked price rises on the cards.

Market revenue growth remained positive in Q3 despite much of the lockdown bounceback dropping out, and is at a significantly higher level than pre-pandemic.

The backbook pricing pressure that has plagued the operators over the last 18 months appears to be finally starting to drop away, allowing strong demand and firm pricing to feed through.

The prospects for next year are also very positive, with firm price increases expected from April, ultrafast upgrades growing in significance, and continued annualisation of backbook issues.

The UK print media sector is facing escalating input cost inflation. Newsprint prices are 50% higher year on year in Q4 2021, noting that prices in 2020 were exceptionally low on soft demand. Based on 2019 rates, prices could be 25% higher in H1 2022. The squeeze on margins for print could destabilise the economics of supply overall

Newsprint inflation is being caused by soaring costs of recycled feedstock, exacerbated by the monopoly of a single supplying mill in the UK after years of attrition. Imports remain substantial, but impaired by the EU-wide crisis in the supply of paper products, alongside bottlenecks at points of entry to the UK

Although less significant a factor than paper in the cost of printing the news, electricity cost inflation is another worry for printers, noting that these costs were again also exceptionally low in 2020. Wholesale electricity prices surged by 80% in 2021 (Ofgem), due to pressure on gas supplies from Russia, and the global energy crisis, which will persist into 2022