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 transition from linear to digital and on-demand usage has the potential to unravel national television ecosystems. Global tech monopolists may eventually control the interface and content discovery paths, pushing European providers down the supply chain.

Maintaining cultural sovereignty over the industry’s architecture is a prerequisite of a thriving, pluralistic ‘electronic public square’, as well as a high performing and locally-relevant creative economy.

Only consolidated commercial broadcasters have sufficient scale to steer national markets towards digital models where European content providers retain prominence and their ability to set the popular cultural agenda. 

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. 

European mobile growth was essentially zero year-on-year—a significant improvement thanks to annualisation of the pandemic but there is little evidence of the reversal of its negative impacts.

Italy saw the biggest improvement in its underlying trend as the pandemic continued to suppress Iliad’s momentum, while elevated competitive tension in Spain and France ate into their annualisation boost.

Mobility and flight data suggests that Q3 will evidence a bigger boost from renewed travel than in Q2—positive for roaming revenues—but that the improvement in mobility will be weaker than in the June quarter.

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.