A string of big, bold hits like Bodyguard, Killing Eve and Little Drummer Girl has reinvigorated the perception of the BBC’s drama schedule, with massive ratings and a coveted place in the public conversation

However, the lack of the broadcaster’s top dramas actually produced by BBC Studios—declining to just 4 of the top 25 in 2018—is cause for ongoing concern

At a time when the BBC is attempting to bulk up the iPlayer and programme IP has become the bedrock broadcasting asset, the BBC could be better placed  

The Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) are in the process of sliding from TV dominance to middling contenders, in terms of content expenditure and significance to viewers

There are calls from many sides that the PSBs need to collaborate in order to thrive, in an era when global debt-funded SVOD services are making all the running

This note explores what can realistically be achieved by PSB collaboration; where partnerships work best; and the areas best avoided

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.

Although launched with an array of public service goals in mind, local TV’s flawed design has created a sector struggling to live up to its optimistic ambitions. 

Five years and £37 million of licence fee monies later, it is unclear what public service contributions are being made, or whether the scheme has provided value-for-money. A wholesale review of the sector is urgently needed.

The vision of a “thriving and sustainable” sector has fallen flat. Most licences remain loss-making, with doubts as to their long-term viability. Those operating low-cost models seem best placed to survive.

Disney’s potential acquisition of certain 21st Century Fox assets is assuredly a play for further scale at a time when the company’s traditional domain, the family home, is increasingly welcoming services such as Netflix.

The deal will consolidate Disney’s dominant film business. But also, the robustness of traditional television, especially 21CF’s cable interests, along with IP assets, will allow Disney to better control the inevitable viewer transition from linear to online and on-demand.

Becoming the one media company with both a strong broadcast and online offering—the control of Hulu, a new Disney streaming service, ESPN+ and other add-on services—could grant Disney the ability to navigate the storm of change and dictate its own future.
 

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

Yet another annual hype cycle in 2018 can’t hide a tepid consumer appetite for all VR platforms and heavy weather for the industry as a whole

The launch of Oculus GO, a standalone device at an attractive price, is a milestone for VR; nevertheless, even Facebook remains worried about reach and the state of the industry

Mobile AR is still a strategic focus for Google and Apple, producing diverse applications instead of just games, but new headsets from Microsoft and Magic Leap which promise advanced MR experiences have no launch dates