New SVOD entrants are prioritising reach over revenue in the US with extensive ‘free’ offers, including Apple TV+ (to hardware buyers), Disney+ (to Verizon customers), HBO Max (to HBO subscribers) and Comcast’s Peacock (to basic cable homes)

This is the latest development in an unfolding global story of partnerships, continuing on from multiple Netflix and Amazon distribution deals with platforms, bringing benefits to both parties

In Europe, Sky faces price pressure, but it has secured its HBO partnership and can now talk to Disney from a position of strength

With a raft of new streaming services about to hit, there remains a question as to the appetite for multiple subscriptions

Pay-TV subscribers continue to be more likely to take SVOD services—especially when they are distributed on their set-top boxes—however the average number of services per household is well below one

Greater variety and quality of services will likely increase the average number of subscriptions but given the siloing nature of these services, Netflix’s incumbency, library and distribution are its strength; new entrants will battle for a supplementary role

ITV experienced a slightly-less-than-expected 5% drop in advertising revenue which was alleviated by lower H1 content scheduling costs, reflecting the timing of major sporting events

Love Island continues to be a ray of light, increasing its viewership and guiding the ITV Family audience share to an eleven-year high, while ITV Studios revenues were down but reportedly still on track for its 2019 targets

More information was provided on the Q4 rollout of streaming service BritBox and the addressable advertising platform for ITV Hub. ITV must be active in these areas but late entry presents problems and questions  

In the BBC’s 2015 funding settlement commencing 2017, the Government assumed the BBC would fully fund the subsidy for over-75s to the tune of £750 million from 2020/21

Although the BBC’s settlement contained measures of “mitigation” worth c.£290 million, the BBC would still have faced a gap of c.£460 million to be funded by programme cuts and efficiencies (the BBC has pledged £250 million)

Including c.£300 million from the annual adjustment of the licence fee for inflation from 2017 would help. However, this was always required to offset normal salary and cost increases to prevent a real decline in the BBC’s resources

Ofcom’s recommendations to Government suggest updating EPG prominence legislation to cover connected TVs, and were warmly welcomed by the PSBs

Balancing various commercial, PSB and consumer interests will be key; determining what content qualifies for prominence will be a particularly thorny issue to resolve

Extending prominence to smart TVs and streaming sticks is critical, but implementation will be challenging

The UK government is now consulting on a wider TV advertising ban until 9pm for food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), to combat childhood obesity

TV and TV advertising are not the cause of children being overweight or obese (O+O). Policy change in this area should inform and educate parents and young children, as they have in Leeds and Amsterdam

With 64% of the UK population being O+O, obesity is a complex societal issue requiring a multifaceted approach. The evidence from existing rules, and plummeting TV viewing amongst children, says that further restrictions on TV advertising will be ineffective in curbing the rise of obesity in the UK

Disney announced that it would acquire Comcast’s 33% share of Hulu in a put/call agreement that can be enacted by either party from January 2024, while taking full operational control of the vehicle immediately.

Under the agreement Disney will pay Comcast a minimum of $9 billion for its current stake, provided Comcast fulfils agreed capital calls, which going forward would be just over $500 million/year.

Disney secured the continued licensing of NBCUniversal content for Hulu, contributing about 30% of Hulu’s library, but Comcast can loosen obligations to Hulu for the launch of its own SVOD service in 2020.

Disney now controls third-party content aggregator Hulu, which has 25 million subscribers in the US. Ramped up by Fox content, Hulu’s operating losses are expected to peak in FY2019 at $1.5 billion, with profits by FY2023 or FY2024 

Serving only Disney content, Disney+ launches in the US at the low price of $6.99/month this November, and in 2020 in Europe and Asia Pacific in 2021, aiming to reach the challenging goal of 60-90 million subscribers in five years

ESPN+, Hulu, Disney+ combined could contribute 13% of Disney’s revenues by 2024, which does not intend to disturb existing channels and windows for catalogue and new content, aside from withdrawing content from Netflix

The split of UKTV has been announced with the lifestyle channels going to Discovery, while the balance, along with the UKTV brand and VOD service, retained by the BBC, costing BBC Studios £173 million

In the same release, a new, global Discovery SVOD “powered” by BBC natural history and factual programming was announced, backed by a ten-year content partnership

The deal is a positive step for the BBC, which safeguards against flaky brand attribution internationally and the potential loss of revenues from Netflix, which is becoming more choosy when acquiring content

After the heights that Love Island and the World Cup took ITV to in H1, the broadcaster held on over the tougher last few months of 2018 to see growth in ad revenue (0.8%) and total viewing (linear and VOD, 3%).

However, it was the announcement of the subscription video service BritBox—with the discussions around the “strategic partnership” with the BBC in its concluding phase—that garnered most interest.

ITV’s investment in the service is modest when compared to its global competitors—up to £25 million in 2019, £40 million in 2020 and declining thereafter—but it is a prudent low-risk entry into what is an expanding but difficult market.