Despite the consumer's confidence having been shaken since the referendum vote for Brexit in June 2016, monthly retail sales, especially online, managed to grow above the private consumption trend until this October, a turning point that could mark the start of a retail recession extending into 2019.

Since mid-2016, TV advertising and retailing have lost their historical covariance, with TV advertising's recession briefly interrupted in the first half of the year due to sunny weather and the FIFA World Cup. After a flat Q3, we predict a resumption of TV advertising's decline, expected to be down 3-4% in Q4 2018 year-on-year.

2018 will be flat for total TV advertising, still better than 2017. However, the medium's weakness will persist in the first half of 2019, with hopes for a recovery only in the second half, assuming an orderly withdrawal from the EU starts in March 2019.

The ban on pre-9pm TV ads for HFSS (high in fat, salt or sugar) products being considered by the Government would not play a constructive or quantifiable role in reversing the UK’s rising childhood obesity rates. 

The ban on HFSS product ads since 2008 around children’s programming has not impeded the inexorable rise of childhood obesity. In 2010, Ofcom termed an HFSS watershed ban ‘disproportionate’ and ‘ineffective’. 

In 2018, a watershed ban would be even less effective. Children’s linear broadcast TV viewing is down by half since 2010, mainly to YouTube’s advantage, which benefits from light-touch HFSS regulation.
 

With Comcast’s acquisition of Sky confirmed and Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox on the path to regulatory clearance, how will the relationships of the various parties evolve?

Disney is betting on a standalone SVOD service in the US. However, its content deal with Sky in Europe is lucrative, and the performance of DisneyLife in the UK suggests its US strategy may not fit elsewhere.

Sky’s relationships with Disney and Fox are crucial to its business. A joint pursuit to maximise returns from IP and distribution in Europe would be economically efficient for both Comcast/Sky and Disney/Fox.

Drawn by its rapid growth and enviably youthful audience profile, incumbent broadcasters are paying increased attention to esports and its followers

Viewership of esports on UK broadcasters’ linear channels is low, with consumption on their online platforms likely the same. The market’s fragmented nature and global audience, along with the dominance of Twitch—and to a lesser extent YouTube—makes this unlikely to change

Broadcasters’ low-cost approach has primarily benefited competition organisers and games publishers. For broadcasters to create real revenues, massive upfront investment would be needed, with the risk of failure high

Comcast’s £30.6 billion acquisition of Sky brings to an end the long-running ownership battle since Disney agreed to tender Fox’s 39% stake to Comcast, also ending the Murdoch Family Trust’s interest in Sky

Comcast’s US domestic cable and global NBCU media businesses complement Sky’s European operation. Sky’s telecoms business is likely to expand, while the TV side should benefit from NBCU’s global distribution might, with greater revenues generated by its original content

Fox’s long-running battle with UK regulators over the public interest dimensions of the proposed Sky acquisition has also ended. Plurality of media is preserved by Comcast’s undertakings to support Sky News for 10 years

Linear TV is ageing, and the largest channels are ageing fastest. There is an ongoing double-whammy effect of a growing older population, and the loss of younger viewers to social media and SVOD services.

The PSBs are suffering more than most, especially the BBC channels. 31% of the population is aged 55+, but over 60% of viewing to BBC1 and BBC2 is by those aged 55+.

The trend can be halted, and even reversed to some degree. There is no inevitability to this ageing process, but it will take concerted efforts to fight it.

There has been no shortage of attention paid to declining TV viewing over recent years, but much of it focuses on overall viewing time rather than advertising delivery.

This is to overlook the engine driving most of the UK’s television industry. Commercial impact delivery has held up well relative to overall viewing, and is strong for certain key demographics.

Nonetheless there are generational and behavioural changes afoot which are exerting downward pressures on impacts, especially for younger audiences. An archipelago of Love Islands is needed (Stranger Things have happened).
 

Rigour and consistency in AV ad metrics is proving elusive. A 10-second ad on YouTube, ITV1, All4, MailOnline, Sky AdSmart or Facebook is measured in as many different ways, often indifferently. It is tricky, costly or impossible for agencies/advertisers to comprehend the overall picture.

By 2020 JIC-based BVOD ad impressions should be available from BARB all being well, giving BVOD a clear advantage over other premium online video measurement.

Google/YouTube seems to be ‘getting’ JIC co-operation now and has begun to galvanise video ad measurement, but forceful advertiser intervention is needed to extend and improve standards. Otherwise, advertisers are simply funding a JIC-free jamboree, and they (with content media) will lose the most.

Despite significant changes in people’s video viewing habits over the last few years, the TV platform landscape has appeared to reach an equilibrium

We expect pay-TV to retain its utility status for most existing customers. At the margins, movement from Sky and Virgin Media to free-to-air or pay-lite services will be mitigated by population growth

The excitable growth phases for Netflix and Amazon are likely to be over, but they have carved out prominent positions in the market. Meanwhile, the uncomplicated allure of free TV remains strong for half the UK

The workings of the TV advertising market are a mystery to most. Overlaying an arcane ‘share of broadcast spend’ trading mechanism is regulation in the form of CRR, which has prevented anti-competitive activity by ITV since 2003

CRR will protect advertisers ‘for as long as needed’. Most advertisers we canvassed believe it should stay in place, but the sell-side and auditors say CRR has passed its ‘Best before’ date and is heading towards its ‘Use by’ date

We propose a review of CRR by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to determine whether it is now helping or hindering the TV advertising ecosystem to become fit-for-purpose for the digital age