Broadband market volume growth resumed its downward trend in the September quarter after a blip in the previous quarter that was likely caused by a wholesale transfer distorting the figures. Revenue growth, however, perked up to 1.9% from 1.7% in the previous quarter, an encouraging recovery especially given that it was not primarily driven by the timing of a price increase

ARPU growth improved across all four of the major operators, countering recent trends, with a focus on higher value offerings a common theme. High speed broadband adoption accelerated in the quarter across most operators, encouraged by Openreach’s volume discount offer, although this was partially driven by keener high speed pricing

Revenue growth at Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk converged at around 3%, with BT Consumer lagging at -1%. However, excluding the effect of BT’s shrinking telephony-only base and smoothing the sporadic boost of its 9-monthly price rise, BT Consumer’s revenue is in the middle of the pack at 3.0% 

TalkTalk had very solid Q2 and H1 results, with broadband net adds staying positive, high speed net adds accelerating, revenue growth above 3% and EBITDA rebounding back to growth

This was helped at the revenue line by a price increase in the quarter and in EBITDA terms by steep Openreach price reductions, with strong revenue growth and any EBITDA growth hard to replicate once these effects have annualised out

The company has nonetheless stabilised its subscriber base, revenue and profitability after some erratic years, with cost-cutting providing some potential for growth going forward

UK broadband subscriptions re-accelerated in Q2, bucking a three-year downward trend, but market revenue growth still fell as BT’s overlapping price increase dropped out and all of the operators continued to struggle to meaningfully grow ARPU

Regular existing customer price increases and continued (but slowing) migration to high speed are being cancelled out by flat-to-down new customer pricing, and the frequent need to discount existing customers down to these levels to retain them

High speed net adds disappointed despite Openreach’s price cut, with many consumers unwilling to pay even a modest price premium for extra speed, a sobering thought as aggressive full fibre network roll-outs are being considered

Audiobooks are growing fast, driven by smartphone adoption and better supply, as well as interest from people who don’t usually buy books, such as young men

The sector is dominated by the presence of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publisher/retailer, which has driven growth of audiobooks but put publishers under pressure. Its strategy is a lesson in Amazon’s approach to media

Audio is an opportunity to sell to new customers, but publishers must acquire and use rights responsibly, and experiment while not letting the audio tail wag the print dog

TalkTalk had another strong quarter for broadband net adds, adding 80k versus its full year target of 150k+. All of this was due to strong wholesale, with retail net adds slightly negative, although in the market and seasonal context even this retail performance is quite respectable

On-net revenue growth improved strongly to around 4%, with its ARPU decline moderating to 2%, and ARPU should be helped further by price increases for existing and new customers alike in July

TalkTalk therefore looks well placed to hit full year targets, albeit with considerable help from its wholesale customers and some aggressive price increases. The focus back onto ARPU and away from (expensively) chasing retail subscriber growth is nonetheless to be applauded

UK residential communications market revenue growth strengthened in Q1, but this was entirely driven by an overlapping price increase from BT, and the decline in market volume growth continues

Continued pressure on both subscriber volume growth and ARPU has led to diverging strategies, with most operators focused on sustaining ARPU, but TalkTalk chasing volumes at the low end, with the former approach currently proving more successful

Looking forward, the benefit of BT’s price rise will fall away completely next quarter and market revenue growth will likely resume its downward trend, but the nadir may be within sight if the flight to quality persists at most operators

TalkTalk hit both its subscriber and EBITDA targets for 2017/18, but Q4 contained some worrying trends including core consumer revenue in decline despite strong subscriber growth, with strong business revenue growth compensating

It held fast on guidance for 2018/19, although the 15% target underlying EBITDA growth is largely driven by regulated cost cuts, and revenue growth may be (again) achieved through the business side, which will be purely wholesale following the sale of its direct business customer base

Having spent the last few years not growing retail subscribers enough in a growing market, TalkTalk is now perhaps trying to grow too fast in a mature market, putting pressure on its ARPU from new and existing customers alike

Spotify is now the world’s first publicly listed on-demand music streaming service. Its global footprint generated €4 billion in 2017 from over 70 million paying subscribers and 90 million ad-funded users across 65 countries

As it expands, the service is steadily but surely moving ever closer to profitability, with a 2019 operating profit a very real prospect

So far and for the near future, Spotify’s global pre-eminence versus competition from Apple, Amazon and Google proves remarkably resilient. Plans to build upon its differentiating features will become ever more decisive as the tech titans will continue to wield their resources and ecosystems against the comparatively undiversified company

Sky posted yet another set of solid results, with revenues up 5% and operating profits up 10%, despite weakening operating metrics in Germany & Austria

Deals with Netflix and Spotify will enhance the customer experience, signalling Sky's confidence in its platform, perhaps a sign of further deals to come

A successful outcome from February’s Premier League auction sealed the prospect of a takeover battle for Sky, with Comcast launching its formal bid this week

UK residential communications market revenue growth fell again to 1.2%, with weakening ARPU growth the main driver. New customer pricing remains flat to down, and existing customers are being increasingly discounted, fuelling the ARPU weakness

High speed broadband adoption is proceeding apace, but the high speed premium is fairly thin, muting the impact on ARPU. Regulated wholesale price cuts from Openreach finalised today and due in April 2018 will not help

Looking forward, the March quarter will benefit from price timing effects at BT and Virgin Media, but we fear that the rest of 2018 will follow the current downward trend and the operators will need to adjust to an ex-growth environment