With pay-TV competition faltering, UEFA is aiming to stimulate demand for 2021-24 TV rights with early auctions, a possible relaunch of FTA broadcasts, and even, unrealistically, by considering an online service of its own

In the recently completed UK auction, facing no major threat from Sky, BT kept the rights at an almost flat price – probably missing a cost saving opportunity

In the upcoming auctions on the Continent, with former buyers such as SFR, Mediaset and Vodafone having cut back on premium sports, the major platforms’ bids will probably be unchallenged

Ofcom’s recommendations to Government suggest updating EPG prominence legislation to cover connected TVs, and were warmly welcomed by the PSBs

Balancing various commercial, PSB and consumer interests will be key; determining what content qualifies for prominence will be a particularly thorny issue to resolve

Extending prominence to smart TVs and streaming sticks is critical, but implementation will be challenging

Sky made a surprisingly weak start to 2019, with revenue growth decelerating to 1.9% (the first time below 4% since the European businesses merged in 2015), due to weaker ARPU trends

However, Sky expects improvement to follow, blaming one-off factors in the quarter. The ARPU weakness drove EBITDA down 11.3%, but this should bounce back across the rest of 2019 as football rights costs turn from a drag to a positive

Comcast highlighted collaborations with Sky across tech, advertising, content distribution and even news, stating it is on track to achieve the anticipated $500 million in annual synergies over the next couple of years

Across the EU4, pay-TV is proving resilient in the face of fast growing Netflix (with Amazon trailing), confirming the catalysts of cord-cutting in the US are not present on this side of the Atlantic. Domestic SVOD has little traction so far.

France's pay-TV market seems likely to see consolidation. Meanwhile, Germany's OTT sector is ebullient, with incumbents bringing an array of new or enhanced offers to market.

Italy has been left with a sole major pay-TV platform—Sky—following Mediaset's withdrawal, while Spain's providers, by and large, are enjoying continued growth in subscriptions driven by converged bundles and discounts.

2018 was another bad year for traditional TV set viewing of broadcast channels, with a 5% decline year-on-year—its steepest since 2011. The decline accelerated among most demographics, but particularly for 16-34s, down 13% YOY from their already relatively low levels of TV viewing

Unmatched use, which includes viewing to Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, continues to grow, up 16% YOY, with both linear viewing and unmatched use becoming increasingly solitary activities. While heavier linear TV viewers are accounting for a greater proportion of linear TV viewing, it is the lighter TV viewers that are accounting for a greater proportion of unmatched use

Within the broadcast ecosystem, ITV had the strongest 2018 thanks to the FIFA World Cup, more Coronation Street, and Love Island. Most other broadcasters struggled in terms of viewing share, but the maturity of the market means major shifts continue to be rare

Sky’s revenue growth under Comcast appears to have accelerated since it last reported as an independent company, largely driven by sports rights expansion in Italy, which also drove bumper subscriber growth in Q3 2018 

Sky UK likely enjoyed a steadier performance, helped by accelerating high speed adoption, a price rise in April, increased international sales, and improving premium channel adoption on third-party platforms

Comcast expects continued acceleration into 2019, with profitability taking a hit from increased sports rights in Italy in H1, but this is more than compensated for by reduced English Premier League rights costs in H2
 

2014 has been a good year for total advertising, which we forecast to grow by 5.5% across the year; display advertising spend is also forecast to grow by over 6% year-on-year. This is largely thanks to a positive economic backdrop, where we have seen a significant rise in consumer expenditure over the last two years

Online advertising spend has been the biggest recipient of growing ad spend, with 20+% growth last year, this year and next. This has mostly been to the detriment of print revenues, where online classified search solutions, amongst other factors like declining circulation, have disrupted print marketplaces

Video has been the largest growth area in internet advertising as online video consumption increases. Up to now online spend has largely been accretive to TV budgets but we are starting to see some advertisers switch to online video spend. However we do not expect TV to suffer in the same way as press

The Sky Deutschland platform, which will fall under BSkyB’s control by mid-November, continues to post strong subscriber growth, thanks to steady gross additions and declining churn

However, average revenue per user remains flat year-on-year, and declined sequentially for the first time in over four years, raising questions about Sky’s capacity to sustain the recent pace of total revenue growth

On current trends, cash flow break-even will not happen before the last quarter of calendar 2016, months before the possible price hike from a new domestic football rights auction. Meanwhile, deployment of Sky’s connected TV services appears to be keeping OTT competitors at bay

Q1 2015 results show steady underlying revenue growth in retail subscription and increases in other segments, along with the continuing extraction of cost efficiencies, resulting in an 11% year-on-year increase in Q1 operating profits

Quarter-on-quarter, Q1 2015 retail subscription revenues and ARPU were flat in spite of the strong uptake and growing use of connected products. Main causes appeared temporary - a mixture of seasonal factors and the launch of Sky Sports 5 with its two-year free broadband offer - while underlying growth remains firmly positive

Meanwhile, Sky’s accelerated investment in connectivity during 2014 is bearing fruit. Eyes may be focused on the formation of the “new Sky” (on schedule for November) and the long awaited Premier League auction, yet other developments such as Sky Store and Sky AdSmart also deserve full attention

ITV and Channel 4 have asked the regulatory authorities to review the case for legislation that would for the first time allow the commercial PSBs to charge carriage fees for their main free-to-air channels on the pay-TV platforms

To this end, ITV has presented a detailed analysis showing the great contribution to the US creative economy due to the introduction of Retransmission Consent Compensation for free-to-air broadcasters in the US, but without setting this against the very different market structure in the UK, where the commercial PSBs enjoy significant privileges

Any change to UK rules will require primary legislation and is not expected until after the May 2015 General Election. Should action be taken, the choice appears to lie between regulation (adding “must carry” rules) and deregulation of commercial PSB privileges, where the end result might not be what the PSBs wished