The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) delivered its Web IV ruling on statutory SoundExchange licensing rates for webcasters for 2016-20, raising Pandora’s total music royalty costs by a forecast 12% in 2016

Had the CRB sided with SoundExchange, rates for Pandora’s non-subscription tier would have shot up 79%, leaving the company floundering in a sea of red ink

Nevertheless, these increased licensing costs for Pandora over 2016-20 will postpone the moment when the company attains net profitability

European mobile service revenue growth again improved, albeit marginally, with the quarter’s gain driven by declines easing further in what nevertheless remain the three weakest markets: France, Italy and Spain. Generally stabilising pricing environments were a key factor although ARPUs in these markets remain largely in decline, under continued pressure from strong out-of-bundle revenue declines

In a post-consolidation world, H3G/O2 in the UK and Yoigo in Spain will be the only mobile-only MNOs in the top five European mobile markets, effectively cementing a convergence based future. Consolidation trends might point to the prospect of greater price stabilisation but a fresh land grab for the converged market could derail this

Overall, in spite of healthy underlying data trends, we continue to see medium term growth recovery prospects capped at around 1% given precedent from both the UK, where a healthy economy, healthy pricing environment and strong data trends have failed to exceed this level, and Germany, where post-consolidation revenue growth has reverted to negative territory, both due to competition and consolidation

UK mobile service revenue growth remained at 0.9% in Q3, but on an underlying basis growth increased 0.1ppts to 1.4%. This continues a trend of very gradual improvement in underlying growth over the past year, while reported growth has stayed constant at around 1% due to the re-introduction of regulated MTR cuts on 1 May 2015

Within the market, performances were mixed. O2 remains a service revenue growth star performer thanks to strong sustained contract net adds and stable contract ARPU while Vodafone’s service revenue growth fell back into decline as its contract ARPU suffered due to a sharp fall in out-of-bundle revenue. EE’s contract net adds were strong, but its contract ARPU growth remains weak, partly due to its renewed contract net adds performance being supported by low ARPU data devices and B2B

Since the end of the quarter, on 28 October, the CMA provisionally approved the BT/EE acquisition without conditions, and on 30 October, the EC opened an in-depth investigation into H3G/O2. Both acquirers would be wise in our view to be wary of making any rapid changes to branding and/or channel strategy, given that EE and O2 account for nearly 60% of UK gross subscriber additions between them and disrupting these sales will have a significant impact on subscriber growth, as EE’s experience since dropping Orange and T-Mobile has shown

The government is expected to announce a Digital Bill in Q1 2016 that will propose profound changes to the structure and funding of the public service broadcasters (PSBs) in television, one of its aims being to enable them to extract retransmission fees from pay-TV platforms, valued at £200 million a year or more for the commercial PSBs

So far the government has only committed itself in its March 2015 consultation paper to the repeal of Section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act (CDPA 1988), which in isolation will adversely impact only the Virgin Media cable platform

Now its ambitions appear to go far beyond introducing retransmission fees towards dismantling the entire UK PSB TV regulatory infrastructure of privileges and obligations and paving the way towards vacation of the DTT spectrum

EE reported strong mobile contract net adds in Q3, after a string of weaker performances earlier in the year following the closure of Phones 4U and retirement of the Orange and T-Mobile brands

Contract ARPU growth remained at -3.1%, keeping mobile service revenue in modest decline (-1.4%), a disappointing result in comparison to modest positive growth at its rivals in recent quarters, although improving subscriber numbers should start to bridge this gap

Fixed broadband subscriber growth suffered in a competitive quarter, with EE unable to maintain momentum when faced with the launch of BT Sport Europe and corresponding increased marketing spend from Sky

Sky has got off to a good start in 2016, as Q1 group revenues grew by 6% and operating profits by 10% year-on-year, while churn stayed low across all three operations, and product net additions of close to one million pointed to continuing strong underlying growth

The Q1 results have softened concerns about the impact of loss of Champions League live televised rights in the UK and Italy, which have so far shown very little effect in spite of intense competitive pressures from BT and Mediaset

Although Sky UK & Ireland has accounted for the entire year-on-year increase in Q1 operating profits, strong subscriber growth in Germany & Austria over the last two years, and signs that economic conditions in Italy are on the mend, provide a positive outlook for the year ahead

The launch of UTV Ireland in the Republic has proved less than successful for UTV Media and has led to its divestment and that of its Channel 3 licence in Northern Ireland

ITV has bought UTV Television for £100m cash and will own 13 of the 15 regional Channel 3 licences, though we do not see a play for STV in the medium term

UTV Media is now able to fully focus on its main profit centre – its growing radio business in the UK and Ireland

European mobile service revenue growth improved to the highest in over four years driven by improvements in the three slowest growing markets of late. Out-of-bundle revenues are still declining at a rate of over 10% but data revenue growth trends point to underlying strengths in the revenue profile. Looking at the longer term picture begs the question as to whether the quarter’s improvement can be repeated over the next 18 months, transforming the industry into one with extremely healthy revenue growth of 5%-10%; on balance we are not very optimistic

Two major in-mobile transactions are yet to be approved by the EC, namely H3G/O2 in the UK and an H3G/Wind JV in Italy. The recent precedent from Denmark is somewhat discouraging, although the Danish consolidation was unusual in some respects. Nonetheless comments from the new competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager suggest that regulatory caution towards 4-to-3 mergers is still high

Progress towards convergence is continuing with few operators in a post-consolidation world being either 100% fixed or 100% mobile. Convergence has to date been discount-led and damaging to market revenues, but post-consolidation, operator rhetoric has been reassuringly more focused on intentions for increased investment in both LTE mobile networks and high speed fixed networks

Germany remains the second largest market in Europe for the exploitation of composition rights by their authors, with €382 million paid out to them in 2014, up 8% on 2013 (63% share of distributions on average). The German Government intends to secure an even “better balance for authors” in their contracts with music publishers, by allowing the composer to “re-tender” their contracts after five years to secure a better deal

GEMA, the collecting society, has a strong position in Germany and is poised to lead the development of the digital single market for online music services. Together with PRS for Music (UK) and STIM (Sweden), GEMA has formed a joint venture (JV) to offer multi-territory licensing and copyright administration services to services, music publishers and other CMOs, cleared by the EU Commission

Music publisher revenues from domestic collections could rise from €225 million to €247 million from 2014 to 2017, due to a moderate rise in broadcast revenues on the back of the economic recovery, a boost to public performance revenues from a higher live music tariff and flat royalties from recorded music expenditure, as the decline of physical mechanicals is offset by the rise of online royalties

In Italy, pay coverage of the Champions League shifted from Sky to Mediaset Premium this season. Alongside a new Serie A contract, this adds an extra €300 million to Mediaset Premium’s cost base

The first results indicate that Mediaset is unlikely to meet its subscriber growth target. On current trends we expect cumulative EBIT losses of over €400 million by 2018

Mounting losses may force Mediaset to close or sell Premium, but fear of Sky may slow decision-making. Sky was probably right not to overbid for the Champions League and the savings should more than offset minor subscriber losses