Market revenue growth remained positive in Q3 despite much of the lockdown bounceback dropping out, and is at a significantly higher level than pre-pandemic.

The backbook pricing pressure that has plagued the operators over the last 18 months appears to be finally starting to drop away, allowing strong demand and firm pricing to feed through.

The prospects for next year are also very positive, with firm price increases expected from April, ultrafast upgrades growing in significance, and continued annualisation of backbook issues.

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.

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.

Viewing habits are changing but live is still central to the TV experience

Television’s biggest shows are amongst the most timeshifted, and therefore have an outsized impact on the decline of live viewing debate

Viewing—not just of news and sport—is still overwhelmingly live, despite differences across genres and broadcasters

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.

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.

The Premier League is reportedly seeking to roll over its existing domestic TV rights deal, in a bid to shore up its financial position given its losses during the pandemic.

A rollover would delay the risk of significant long-term deflation in the value of these rights, buying the Premier League greater financial certainty and time.

For Sky, BT and Amazon, a deal could provide even better value, and would delay any potentially-risky auction, closing the door to prospective newcomers.