Growth in European content supply may soon reach a tipping point as streamers shift from market grabs to profitability, while resources poured into production from states, consumers and advertisers are declining

The perceived value of long-form video content is dropping as consumers pay smaller amounts for a greater volume of choice, from which they are watching less

However, factors converge to prop up the European independent model: broadcasters’ resilient financing, the public favouring ‘deep’ local fare, talent’s preference for independents, market consolidation and new EU regulation

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.

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

ITV's total advertising revenue (TAR) for the nine months to September was up 30% YoY, and 8% higher than 2019, with the full year expected to be up 24%. Its guidance for 2021 suggests TAR of c. £1.95 billion (up 24%), which would be 10% above 2019, and ITV's highest advertising revenue ever

ITV Hub remains reliant on Love Island and football. Although in the past nine months, ITV's online viewing has risen 39% YoY—adding 138 million hours of online viewing—that uplift is entirely down to the Euros and Love Island

Meanwhile, the Sky Glass launch has revealed a future of collaboration and self-determination for ITV and other PSBs: recent deals with Sky and Virgin have seen ITV trading short-term revenue for deals that maintain the broadcaster's brand in the forefront of the viewer's attention, alongside increasing direct access to them

Sky has started to reap benefits from its substantial reduction in sports rights costs in Italy and Germany, helping to grow group EBITDA by 76% in Q3, despite a slight drop in revenue.

With this change in strategy, the business model in Italy is undergoing an upheaval. Meanwhile, the UK continues to perform well, with further promise on the horizon thanks to the bold launch of Sky Glass.

This streaming TV is a future-proofing leap forwards in Sky’s ever-more-central aggregation strategy, starting the business down the long path to retiring satellite, though this is probably still over a decade away.

Amazon has been criticised by commentators, governments and sellers for giving its own products an unfair advantage on its online storefront, which millions of sellers depend on for discovery

This line of attack misses the point of Amazon’s business, which is to operate marketplaces and extract profits from suppliers through fees and services. This model raises its own questions about competition and fair trading, but self-preferencing is not core

Amazon's strategy needs both buyers and sellers, but it needs to focus on the experience for customers as the foundation of its market power

The government is intent on privatising Channel 4, largely as is, with some potential shifts to the remit and a re-evaluation of the Terms of Trade and the publisher/broadcaster model

We note a valuation range of between £600m and £1.5bn, depending on the scenario and the buyer’s ability to create cost-savings. The counterfactual—a competitor buying Channel 4—could be motivating, while many broadcasters could benefit from the sale given that the government will have to provide the buyer with surety around uncertainties like prominence, licences and gambling/HFSS advertising

Given the potential and incentive for a profit-oriented owner to game Channel 4’s current woolly remit, if the government wants to guarantee a continuation of the benefits C4 presents onscreen and to the economy, much consideration need be placed on making the obligations more quantifiable and trackable

Sky’s revenue was up 15% in Q2, back to pre-COVID levels despite some lingering pandemic effects such as most pubs and clubs remaining closed. EBITDA fell by a third, driven by higher costs from sports rights, since very few live sports events took place in Q2 2020.

The impact of “resetting” football rights is already evident in Germany and Italy, with 248k net customer losses across the group despite growth in the UK. However, Sky will make substantial savings, and we expect this will more than offset lost revenues.

Meanwhile, Sky continues to strike deals with other content providers, solidifying its position as the leading household entertainment gatekeeper. In time, apps for NBCU’s Peacock, ViacomCBS’ Paramount+, ITV Hub, and, in Germany, RTL TV Now and DAZN, will all be aggregated within Sky Q.

ITV’s H1 advertising revenues were up 29% YoY—and up 2% compared to 2019—to £866 million, with the Euros and an improving market ushering in the biggest June ever for the broadcaster. Studios revenues rose 26% (to £798 million), which was 5% better than 2019

ITV’s new deal with Sky provides clarity around the relationship between the two companies, with ITV soon able to dynamically serve ads on both downloaded content and linear channels (but apparently not via Sky Adsmart) on Sky Q. By the end of 2022, the full ITV Hub app will be available on Sky Q

BritBox—which was not part of the Sky deal—has shown muted growth in the UK (adding 55k in H1 to 555k subscribers), while over the same period, international subscriptions lifted 18% (to 2 million)