In an audacious move to minimise the risk of mobile social disruption, Facebook is to acquire leading messaging app Whatsapp for up to $19 billion, or $42 per user, or 11% of Facebook’s current market cap
Messaging platforms are becoming the new social media, particularly for younger demographics, and while Facebook/WhatsApp will be huge in mobile, other services could still side-step into Facebook’s territory
The price for WhatsApp may be justifiable to counter the threat, but Facebook has only bought one of many, and paying a full price may encourage the others; expensively buying every competitor does not feel like a long-term strategy
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-Man, Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, Jumanji and Venom.
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.