20 July 2010

Telewest has drawn away from its key competitor in terms of UK performance. However, we still believe Telewest's bonds are worth less than 50% of their face value. This note explains why.

In this note, we provide some evidence for this unpopular view. We look at BSkyB in the UK in the period from prior to the start of its digital service to today. We show four main points: (1) Digital TV has not resulted in digital viewers buying more channels or spending significant sums on pay-per-view. In fact the key 'pay-to-basic' ratio has fallen; (2) Sky's increased TV ARPU has resulted entirely from price increases in the various Sky packages, rather than increased purchasing; (3) The move to digital has caused a significant, and possibly permanent, deterioration in the costs of operating the Sky service. All the main categories of Sky's costs have risen as a percentage of turnover; (4) The ability to run more sophisticated interactive services on a digital platform has had little positive effect on Sky's economics. Though Sky disguises the costs attached to interactive services, it almost certainly loses money on this part of its activities.

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