Mobile growth dipped again to -3.3% for what we hope is the final time as widespread lockdowns impacted paid-for usage in most countries.

BT and Vodafone joined the other European MNOs in guiding to improving trends in 2021—expecting EBITDA momentum to be 7-10ppts better—slightly ahead of the 5-7ppts for the European operators.

We may even see positive revenue growth next quarter thanks to the simple annualisation of the first lockdown, with the UK the most to gain and Germany and Italy the least. Investment is creeping up too with higher capex guidance and better 5G momentum.

As private sector employers faced an unprecedented degree of uncertainty, the volume of vacancies fell 60% from 2019 to 2020, driven by the arts & entertainment, food & hospitality and retail sectors, leading expenditure on recruitment advertising to fall by 32%.

In 2021, vacancies for temporary placements are surging as society proceeds to unlock, with the near-term labour market tight, boosting expenditure on recruitment. Our concern is the masked unemployment in B2C sectors that will emerge should furlough end on 30 September. 

Judging by global revenue trends in FY2020, professionally-oriented networking platform LinkedIn gained from demand for hiring served by paid-for listings, also filling demand for events. Indeed, which serves the high-volume but lower-value end of labour markets, with a less fruitful budget and cost-per-click model, suffered mild revenue decline.

Advertising income has been the lifeblood of commercial TV for decades, but declining linear audiences—combined with digital video alternatives—mean the TV advertising model must evolve to ensure it remains as potent a medium for brands as ever.

Lack of effective audience measurement and somewhat opaque advertiser/agency/sales house relationships are hampering linear TV advertising revenues. Both issues need resolving to underpin a healthier ecosystem overall.

Flexibility is key to this evolution. A move to audience buys across most linear and BVOD inventory would provide greater flexibility and targeting for advertisers, and would sit alongside some premium context buys. A greater onus on volume deals would give broadcasters more certainty to invest in content and their advertising propositions.

Mobile revenue growth improved slightly to -3% this quarter, primarily thanks to a weakening in the drag from the loss of roaming.

European MNOs are guiding to improving trends in 2021—broadly stable revenues and EBITDA vs declines of 5-7% in 2020. This bodes well for guidance from the UK players around mid-May.

However, the outlook is far from rosy, with Q1 2021 still very challenging ahead of an annualisation of the pandemic drags from the June quarter. Growth prospects remain contingent on the resumption of travel and the economic climate.

The pandemic has caused an unprecedented demand boom and revenue windfall for the games industry, allowing developers to ease production bottlenecks, assist remote working, and spend more cash on games that matter.

Producing quality game experiences remotely—from greenlight through to release—has driven innovation and flexibility, and much needed change for game studios.

Most large game developers expect a return to in-studio development late in Q3 2021. Many workers hope a return will not also bring back toxic game production environments.

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The Creative Industries accounted for 6% of UK GVA in 2019, more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined. The UK’s Creative Industries are the largest in Europe and are central to promoting the UK’s soft power globally.

At the core of the creative economy is the AV sector, which, in turn, is driven by the UK’s PSBs. In 2019, the PSBs were responsible for 61% of primary commissions outside London and are the pillar upon which much additional regional economic activity depends.

Going forward, only the PSBs are likely to have the willingness and scale to invest in production centres outside London with sufficient gravitational pull to reorientate the wider creative economy towards the nations and regions.

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Climate change is a core theme of this year’s Media and Telecoms 2021 & Beyond Conference, linking to the UK's presidency of COP26 in 2021, the UN’s 26th climate change conference.

Since 2015, the Paris Agreement frames mankind’s collective effort to address climate change by reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases (GHG), to limit warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, aiming for 1.5°C. The UK is committed to achieve this target and seeks, alongside other nations, to reduce its GHG emissions to net zero by 2050.

The UK, like other participants, will deliver net zero through mandatory carbon footprint reduction activities, an important component of which are businesses. This report profiles the carbon footprints of companies in the TMT sector, which are light in the case of most media companies, and heavier for telcos, which build and run network infrastructure.

An easy win we advocate for the TMT sector is to adopt a hybrid model for work on the back of pandemic-related work-from-home (WFH) practices, reducing office estates and commuting, permanently cutting the footprint.

The pandemic shows working from home is economically feasible in the UK, thanks to telco networks, platforms and services, disproving employers’ largely negative pre-existing views. WFH will also add value to office workers, about half of which support a hybrid model for the future. It liberates precious time from the commute, makes the office integral to value creation, and prevents carbon from being wasted.

The games industry enjoyed a robust 2020, with the pandemic creating high demand across titles and platforms. Now a core part of the mainstream media and entertainment ecosystem, games share of entertainment spend and audience viewing time will maintain momentum and increase in 2021.

The demand for, and value of, premium content has migrated to game IP, with top franchises driving increased M&A activity and tighter integration with film and TV output, and providing an important advertising channel.

The pandemic has provided breathing space for the industry on regulatory scrutiny of revenue models, and overall consumer safety. Regulators need to increase their speed in 2021, and act decisively on predatory ‘free-to-play’ game mechanisms.

Mobile growth improved very marginally to -3.6% this quarter as roaming revenues were harder hit and competitive intensity bounced back, but usage recovered from the lockdowns in Q2 and cuts to intra-EU calls were annualised.

Italy’s fortunes took a turn for the worse as roaming hit particularly hard and Iliad resurged. After a spate of downgrades to the outlook last quarter, there were some tentative upgrades in Q3 although the tone remains cautious.

The diminished drag from roaming is the primary positive driver from here. Although lockdowns of some degree are in place in Q4, their impact will be less severe than those in Q2.
 

The launch of new games consoles this week showcases broadly divergent strategies for Sony and Microsoft, with market leader PlayStation focused solely on defending its model against the rising tide of cheaper subscription games services.

Xbox's consumer offer is the best value proposition for these difficult economic times, attracting new customers and positioning for growth, and stopping slavish devotion to 'core gamers' in the process.

Amazon's Luna lands, providing big competition in game streaming services for Google's Stadia. But nobody is taking any notice, as neither provide a real breakthrough for the industry or great value for gamers. Stadia’s lifespan could be limited.