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

 

The US scripted content boom is spilling over into Europe: Free-to-air TV drama ratings have proven resilient but as costs and audience expectations have risen budgets are under pressure, necessitating flexible co-financing arrangements with American broadcasters, and Netflix and Amazon. Pay channels have boosted output—with uneven results

Long-term IP control is a key factor behind independent production consolidation, led by broadcasters seeking a secure stream of content and diversification away from advertising

Notable developments include the new wave of Berlin-based, internationally-financed series, the rise of domestic French content and Sky Italia’s edgy originals, Telefónica’s giant leap into Spanish dramas, and the continuation of Britain as an export powerhouse

Secretary of State (SoS) Karen Bradley has made an initial decision to refer 21CF’s bid for Sky to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) for a detailed consideration of media plurality concerns, to be finalised in the near future

The issue at hand is the potential increase in the influence of the members of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) over the UK’s news agenda and political process. The SoS rejected the remedy for Sky News brokered by Ofcom

Ofcom’s non-negative decision on the fitness and propriety of 21CF to hold Sky’s broadcast licences cleared another hurdle in the event the merger is finally accepted

Domestic championship and Champions League rights for 2018-21 are auctioned almost simultaneously. The main uncertainties are the extent to which Sky will increase its exclusive coverage of Serie A, and whether it will try to win the Champions League auction to take advantage of rival Mediaset Premium’s announced retreat

Mediaset has complained to regulators over the Serie A terms, possibly seeking a repeat of the 2014 scenario when it provoked the termination of the auction and ultimately gained a private deal – an outcome still facing legal challenges. Any possible resolution of Mediaset’s dispute with Vivendi should not impact the auctions

We doubt that telecom or digital operators will be tempted by the €200m minimum price for the two internet-only packages with patchy regional coverage – a bad idea mandated by the regulator. However irrational behaviour at auctions should never be ruled out

Our latest forecasts point to the continued strength of DTT within the UK broadcast market. We predict DTT-only homes will account for 42% of TV viewing ten years from now, up from 38% today

Much of this is due to the UK’s ageing population profile, since DTT skews older. The number of over-45s in DTT-only homes is set to increase by 13% by 2026

The other key factor is the continued growth of flexible pay-lite services—for example, Netflix and NOW TV—which are of greater appeal to younger audiences

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

The past 14 months have seen a flurry of activity from the major UK television platforms, with all but one releasing a revamped version of their television offering; a neccessary reaction to the rise of VOD consumption and the threat this poses to traditional models

The result is 'connected' offerings, with the major players aiming to exploit the impact of this technology by seamlessly integrating on-demand capabilities, and in doing so mitigate the further shockwaves resulting from its emergence

No offering is likely to single-handedly alter the current subscriber landscape radically; with the pay platforms' each taking a unique—and to a degree—entrenched path that affirms its core consumer base, the greatest shifting of sands will likely come from changes in consumer trends or content quality

 

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