Google has lost its appeal of the European Commission’s antitrust ruling of 2017 that it had abused its position in general search to favour Google Shopping, its Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) channel for merchants, in relation to price comparison aggregators. 

Since the case was lodged in 2010, price comparison has receded as the key to consumers’ online purchases, also motivated by influencers, reviews, and browsing. Merchants use YouTube and Instagram to build brands, Facebook to launch products, and Google Shopping as the key alternative to Amazon for direct response.

The EU’s antitrust regime has once more solved yesterday’s problem, but this will shift for Big Tech to an ex-ante regime when the landmark Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act come on-stream.

 

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.

Netflix has moved into the third stage of its COVID narrative, with growth back and residual benefits from lockdown banked

Squid Game proves that the Netflix UI can set the zeitgeist but with that power comes sobering responsibilities, such as increased regulatory obligations and an understanding that internal issues have the potential to become very public problems

With subscriber growth no longer the most effective story to emphasise in maturing markets, it appears that a shift in narrative from subscriber adds to engagement has begun

Netflix’s decision to launch games as part of the subscription bundle is smart business: rewarding current subscribers, leveraging its IP, and signalling that subscription is the best long-term revenue model in the games space. 

Expect technological innovation to be central to Netflix’s ambitions with games. Netflix will make it easier for different game experiences to occur, and ways to attract external developers will inevitably follow. 

For Disney, Netflix just made the battle for customers more difficult and more expensive.  Disney will need to make hard decisions about how to approach the games business—something it has shown before it finds difficult to do. 

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

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.

Advertising income has been the lifeblood of commercial TV for decades, but declining linear audiences—combined with digital video alternatives—mean the TV advertising model must evolve to ensure it remains as potent a medium for brands as ever.

Lack of effective audience measurement and somewhat opaque advertiser/agency/sales house relationships are hampering linear TV advertising revenues. Both issues need resolving to underpin a healthier ecosystem overall.

Flexibility is key to this evolution. A move to audience buys across most linear and BVOD inventory would provide greater flexibility and targeting for advertisers, and would sit alongside some premium context buys. A greater onus on volume deals would give broadcasters more certainty to invest in content and their advertising propositions.

Subscriber growth is down but the benefits from COVID-19 have been banked and are enduring. The pandemic pulled forward new subscribers, delayed churn and higher engagement allowed price rises to be pushed through—ARPU in US/Canada, for example has now risen 74 cents in one quarter (to $14.25).

Is the Netflix narrative beginning to change from subscriber adds to engagement? As markets mature the obvious metric that could drive a corporate narrative is engagement, which is higher on Netflix than competitors and growing.

Netflix still lacks tentpole IP in a competitive space. However, the new deal with Sony conceivably gives Netflix access to IP such as Spider-ManKarate KidGhostbustersJumanji and Venom.