UK residential communications market revenue growth dipped to 2.1% in Q3. While volume growth continued to decline, the main driver was weakening ARPU growth, which was partly caused by price rise timing effects but there was also an underlying contribution

Longer term, slowing market volume growth has contributed to the market revenue growth drop over the last year, but slowing ARPU growth is also playing its part, and maintaining ARPU growth is becoming a major challenge for the operators given the discounting required to win and retain customers

Looking forward, price rise timings will continue to cause short-term revenue growth fluctuations, but the main long-term factor will be the trajectory of subscriber ARPU, and whether any growth in this can be sustained

Sky made a strong start to fiscal 2018, with improved customer net adds across each of its markets versus the previous quarter, as well as group revenue growth at 5%

Operating profits switched back to growth, after the negative Premier League effect annualised out, with it now settled at the full cost of £1.4 billion per year. EBITDA growth hit 11%, or 15% excluding the effect of UK mobile and the Spanish OTT launch

Against the backdrop of continued uncertainty around the UK advertising market, attention has turned to the upcoming Premier League auction, though we think it unlikely that digital players will cause disruption

UK residential communications market revenue growth bounced up to 3.6% in Q2, a full 1.4ppt improvement on the previous quarter and reversing the downwards trend of the previous two quarters. However, this was entirely driven by price rises at BT and Sky, with the ongoing market volume growth decline continuing at pace

In competitive terms, TalkTalk was the only operator able to improve its broadband net adds on a year earlier, and Virgin Media was solid with only a modest decline, leaving BT and Sky shouldering the worst of the slowdown, albeit with neither company doing particularly poorly given the market context

New customer pricing remains tight, with Virgin Media in particular becoming more competitive. Looking forward, we expect volumes to continue to slow, and for the pricing boost enjoyed in Q2 to largely drop out next quarter, leading to a renewed revenue growth slowdown

Sky's full year results for fiscal 2017 are largely in line with company guidance on revenues, costs and synergies given on Investor Day last October, while the company expects further progress in fiscal 2018

Operating profits were badly hit by the massive increase of £629 million in annual payments to the Premier League, however, due to revenue and cost efficencies elsewhere, they fell by just £97 million, testifying to the overall strength of the Sky business

The results presentation revealed a clear sense of strategic direction, supported by much glossy and positive detail, yet revealed relatively little about the headwinds that Sky and other pay-TV operators now face, including the evident decline in Sky UK DTH subscriptions

Across Europe, markets are becoming more competitive. Incumbent pay-TV paltforms (e.g. Sky or Canal+) face increasing threats from both internet-based services (e.g. Netflix and Amazon), and telecoms operators

Telecoms providers are proving the most potent challengers as they enter the premium football rights market to create attractive triple and quad play bundles – examples include BT, SFR and Telefónica. The latter is now the main pay-TV operator in Spain whereas France’s Canal+ has entered into a strategic alliance with Orange

Across the top five markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), Sky remains the leading operator with an estimated 21.5m video subscribers, twice as many as Netflix

 

UK residential communications market revenue growth dipped 0.6ppts in Q1, from 3.3% in the previous quarter. This was mainly driven by ARPU weakness arising due to the timings of Sky and Virgin Media’s price rises, but weakness also stemmed from the sustained decline in broadband volume growth and continued new customer price competition

In competitive terms, BT and Sky suffered as a result of communicating price rises in the quarter, Virgin Media had a strong quarter if not quite as good as it was expecting, and TalkTalk manged to recover to positive retail broadband net adds at the expense of high marketing costs

BT, Liberty Global and TalkTalk issued profit warnings in the quarter, all of which were at least loosely related to increasing pressures in the consumer market. We expect these pressures – a slowing broadband market, an expanding Virgin Media, and a stabilising TalkTalk – to continue

Sky delivered 5% year-on-year revenue growth over the first nine months at constant exchange rates, although operating profits fell due to several factors, most notably the massive step-up in UK Premier League TV payments under the new contract

On closer inspection, relatively weak UK & Ireland Q3 revenue growth compared with previous quarters largely reflects one-off special factors 

Otherwise, positive quarters for Sky Germany & Austria and Sky Italy and improving cost efficiencies suggest that the Sky Group remains broadly on track to deliver its Investor Day 2016 guidance objectives

UK residential communications market revenue growth fell to 3.3% in Q4, from 5.4% in the previous quarter. The slowdown was mainly caused by BT’s overlapping price rise dropping out, but there was also ARPU weakness at Sky (due to price rise timings) and TalkTalk (due to re-contracting customers)

Volume growth in the core three products continued its decline, with broadband reaching saturation, line rental suffering from Virgin’s broadband solo offering and pay-lite TV offers losing momentum. Looking forward, recent and upcoming price increases should allow some recovery from current revenue growth levels

However, competitive pressures are increasing. Virgin Media’s network extension continues to accelerate, TalkTalk is attempting to stabilise its base and new customer pricing has fallen substantially since December 2016 – causing a dramatic disparity in new/existing customer pricing. The higher churn and/or reduced ARPU this is likely to cause, combined with slowing market volumes, indicate that market revenue growth is unlikely to recover to the 5-6% it enjoyed for most of 2015 and 2016

 

21st Century Fox’s (21CF) second attempt to acquire Sky comes at a time when the TV world faces mounting online pressure, accompanied by erosion of territorial boundaries in an increasingly global marketplace 

Despite some investor concerns about Sky’s ability to deliver its operating targets over the next five years, we consider the underlying business to be sound and starting to show benefits that derive from its international scale 

21CF’s bid has a strong strategic logic in terms of growing international scale further and evolving a global platform that integrates shared content strengths in sports and entertainment with Sky’s top of class expertise in customer relationships 

Sky H1 2017 results are broadly in line with company guidance on revenues, costs and synergies given at the 2016 Investor Day 

The core focus since the formation of European Sky in November 2014 has been investment for growth in all sectors of the business (i.e. retail products, content offers and customer service), an approach that is beginning to bear fruit. Sky Italy had a notably “excellent” start to the year

Most eye-catching in the results release was the planned launch in fiscal 2018 of an IP alternative to Sky’s DTH service. That speaks volumes about the know-how Sky has accumulated over the last ten years in meeting customer demands and building customer relationships