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.

VMO2’s inaugural results reinforced the company’s focus on profitability with EBITDA growth of 6% and record margins. Flat revenues year-on-year benefited from the annualisation of the COVID-19 hit but incorporated little by way of rebound.

Much remains to be seen in terms of strategy but indications thus far are reassuring with B2B a clear focus for revenue growth, and the benefits of direct distribution feeding through to profitability.

The company’s decision to build an overlay full fibre network is a bold, but smart, move—allaying justified obsolescence fears about its network, enhancing strategic flexibility, and reducing its cost base.

BT’s revenue growth bounced back by 3ppts in Q1, and EBITDA growth surged into positive territory for the first time since 2018, enjoying significant bounceback as it lapped the start of the pandemic.

Some aspects of the bounce are temporary, but some business lines are yet to recover at all, and there are positive signs of an underlying return to sustainable growth across much of BT.

Openreach’s momentum continues to grow with much more to come, and VMO2’s switch to full fibre reduces a long-term upside but introduces no significant new downside in our view.

Vodafone’s growth this quarter was a touch disappointing; the annualistion of the COVID hit was a clear boost but no evidence of any tailwinds. The 1.1% growth in the European markets should be the real focus for investors.

We see some evidence of positive initiatives from Vodafone such as its new EVO tariffs in the UK but it still has much to prove on operating momentum, especially in Germany.

There are signs that Vodafone is slow-pedalling in some markets and with demanding EBITDA targets and with leverage still finely balanced, we expect this focus on profitability to continue. The UK may be a special case.

With the O2/Virgin Media merger now approved, VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands may hold clues to their likely approach to the market although their starting point is not quite the same and some lessons may have been learned.

We remain sceptical of the merits of discount-led convergence strategies. The pandemic, however, has eased the route to cross-selling and strengthened the case for convergent technologies.

Virgin Media’s network strategy will be key with significant risks from wholesaling their cable network and from expanding their footprint.

Openreach's new FTTP discount plan is focused purely on higher speed price discounts in return for accelerated adoption, with no further elements to disadvantage altnet new entrants.

The price discounts are, however, very aggressive and get more so over time, and allow Openreach CPs to undercut Virgin Media and retail altnets on gigabit pricing while still making strong margins.

The extra discounts do limit an upside for Openreach, but they should also stimulate FTTP take-up, promote market share gain from Virgin Media and altnets, and discourage further competitive build.

Market revenue growth improved to -1.4% in Q1 2021, a partial recovery being better than at any point in 2020, but still worse than at any point in 2019.

Next quarter the sports channel suspensions will lap out, driving strong (but temporary) year-on-year growth.

Longer-term revenue growth recovery will need backbook pricing pressure relief, which will start in Q2, and demand for ultrafast broadband.

BT ended a very challenging 2020/21 financial year with its worst quarter yet for EBITDA growth, as the third national lockdown impacted mobile, offices, pubs/clubs and installation revenue streams

There are many turnaround drivers ahead though, including price rises, backbook effects annualising, lockdown effect reversals, and full fibre benefits, but returning to revenue growth by the end of the year still looks challenging

The acceleration and expansion of fibre build is very positive in our view, but BT has given no guidance on the future benefits aside from capex returning to normal levels, which is doing it no favours with investors

After a strong post-pandemic rebound, Sky has the opportunity to leverage its strong reputation with consumers to meet the challenge posed by new competitors and the studios’ direct-to-consumer transition, establishing Sky Q as the ultimate gatekeeper of video subscription homes.

Sports rights costs in Germany and Italy have been cut significantly, while Sky’s spend on UK Premier League rights will decrease in real terms. Savings will ease the financing of the shift to original content, which, associated with owner Comcast’s NBCU output, anchors the aggregation strategy.

Fibre deployment in the UK and Italy presents a subscriber and revenue growth opportunity, and underpins the gradual shift away from satellite to online content distribution.