UK residential communications market revenue growth dipped to 2.1% in Q3. While volume growth continued to decline, the main driver was weakening ARPU growth, which was partly caused by price rise timing effects but there was also an underlying contribution

Longer term, slowing market volume growth has contributed to the market revenue growth drop over the last year, but slowing ARPU growth is also playing its part, and maintaining ARPU growth is becoming a major challenge for the operators given the discounting required to win and retain customers

Looking forward, price rise timings will continue to cause short-term revenue growth fluctuations, but the main long-term factor will be the trajectory of subscriber ARPU, and whether any growth in this can be sustained

Children’s media use and attitudes have dramatically changed over the last few years, stemming from the rapid take-up of smartphones and tablets

Traditional TV continues to decline at the expense of newer video services such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, with 43% of children aged 8-15 preferring YouTube videos over TV programmes

These online services offer content producers wider opportunities, but questions remain around the lack of regulation online, and the recent scandal around children’s safety on YouTube has heightened these concerns

BARB data indicates that the amount of average daily TV set viewing to linear TV channels is continuing to fall: the pie is shrinking. Just under 20% of TV set usage so far in 2017 is to non-linear activity, and viewing to SVOD services and YouTube is likely to account for most of this growth in 'unmatched' viewing

The pie is shrinking faster amongst younger audiences: just under one third of TV set usage is 'unmatched' now for 16-34s. However 35+ unmatched use is growing at a faster rate than 16-34 unmatched use in 2017

Within this smaller pie, the PSB channels continue to hold share of viewing against pay channels. Within the PSBs, ITV and the ITV digital channel family have gained most share so far this year, although BBC1 is having a strong autumn in spite of the loss of Great British Bake Off to C4

Virgin Media’s subscriber figures were flat on the prior year quarter, a robust performance in a slowing and increasingly competitive market, with ARPU growth still weak but at least not worsening

Project Lightning had another successful quarter, accelerating strongly and passing an additional 147k premises, which bodes well for subscriber acceleration into 2018

A recently implemented price increase should boost ARPU growth next quarter, on the basis that it successfully limits the retention discounting that characterised last year’s price increase, but such a boost will be limited by wider market pricing pressures

Public service broadcasting (PSB) and the entire unique broadcasting ecosystem face huge challenges from global tech giants with deep pockets, data insights and scant regard for PSB prominence

All three pillars of the PSB model are threatened: content supply, distribution and advertising. The further threat of digital terrestrial TV (DTT) spectrum being reduced or turned off in c.2030 is real and PSBs must have a migration path in place

PSBs can counter some challenges through increased investment in content relevant to the UK consumer. But, recognising the aligned interests with pay-TV platforms of Sky and Virgin Media, collaboration between the parties is integral to the long-term future of PSB

21CF’s bid for 100% ownership of Sky has been referred for a Phase 2 investigation to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will decide by 6 March 2018

Third parties Avaaz and Ed Miliband MP complain of the influence of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members over the UK’s news agenda and political process 

A remedy could insulate Sky News from this influence. The offer of a Sky News Editorial Board at Phase 1 was refused. Third parties will ensure the debate in Phase 2 is very lively

UK residential communications market revenue growth bounced up to 3.6% in Q2, a full 1.4ppt improvement on the previous quarter and reversing the downwards trend of the previous two quarters. However, this was entirely driven by price rises at BT and Sky, with the ongoing market volume growth decline continuing at pace

In competitive terms, TalkTalk was the only operator able to improve its broadband net adds on a year earlier, and Virgin Media was solid with only a modest decline, leaving BT and Sky shouldering the worst of the slowdown, albeit with neither company doing particularly poorly given the market context

New customer pricing remains tight, with Virgin Media in particular becoming more competitive. Looking forward, we expect volumes to continue to slow, and for the pricing boost enjoyed in Q2 to largely drop out next quarter, leading to a renewed revenue growth slowdown

Virgin Media’s subscriber figures in Q2 were a little mixed, with total homes and broadband figures weaker than a year earlier, but pay TV much stronger. ARPU growth fell though, largely due to price increase timing effects, leading to a modest dip in revenue growth

Project Lightning premises passed during the quarter rose to 127k, making at least some progress towards upping its run-rate after changing its roll-out management team and approach, the company declined to give indications of how this will evolve

The broader market context is still one of slowing broadband volume growth, and Virgin Media continues to take market share, being the fastest growing of the ‘big 4’ in both subscriber and RGU volumes

Across Europe, markets are becoming more competitive. Incumbent pay-TV paltforms (e.g. Sky or Canal+) face increasing threats from both internet-based services (e.g. Netflix and Amazon), and telecoms operators

Telecoms providers are proving the most potent challengers as they enter the premium football rights market to create attractive triple and quad play bundles – examples include BT, SFR and Telefónica. The latter is now the main pay-TV operator in Spain whereas France’s Canal+ has entered into a strategic alliance with Orange

Across the top five markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), Sky remains the leading operator with an estimated 21.5m video subscribers, twice as many as Netflix

 

The US scripted content boom is spilling over into Europe: Free-to-air TV drama ratings have proven resilient but as costs and audience expectations have risen budgets are under pressure, necessitating flexible co-financing arrangements with American broadcasters, and Netflix and Amazon. Pay channels have boosted output—with uneven results

Long-term IP control is a key factor behind independent production consolidation, led by broadcasters seeking a secure stream of content and diversification away from advertising

Notable developments include the new wave of Berlin-based, internationally-financed series, the rise of domestic French content and Sky Italia’s edgy originals, Telefónica’s giant leap into Spanish dramas, and the continuation of Britain as an export powerhouse