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).
 

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

The latest auction of live Premier League broadcast rights commencing in 2019/20 has concluded at last, with three different winners for the first time

The total sum has not been confirmed, but it looks to be down c. 10% from the previous auction at £1.55 billion per season—still substantial, and not far off the BBC’s entire TV content budget

As we predicted, Sky and BT remain dominant, winning 180 of the 200 games per season, whilst new entrant Amazon picked up one of the leftover packages at what looks to be a very low price

In a display of chutzpah, Mediapro acquired the Ligue 1 domestic broadcasting rights from 2020-24 in what is the most disruptive shock to the French broadcasting industry in a generation; one that is likely to accelerate Canal+’s decline, force a review of the outdated regulatory framework, and possibly spur an M&A spree.

The Mediapro move only makes sense as a highly speculative bid to resell the rights, or a dedicated channel, to French platforms in 2020. The odds are high that the broker ultimately fails to fulfil the contract, as just happened in Italy, where Sky is now expected to get the Serie A licence.

Precedents of new entrants acquiring domestic top-flight rights bode poorly for Mediapro, and for the league. The Ligue 1 may live to regret the introduction of a ‘re-sell right’ into its licensing terms.