Google and Roku are battling over the terms that YouTube is carried on connected TV (CTV) platforms—one of many power struggles over who gets what share of a booming CTV market.

Roku has invoked competition concerns over Google’s conduct. However, current laws and proposed legislation are unlikely to cover this disagreement, which should instead be seen as a standard business negotiation.

Various companies are looking to fill the CTV platform space, not least Google and Amazon. If Roku’s tough negotiating tactics threaten its customers’ access to content, it could find it difficult to maintain its platform foothold.

Google has lost its appeal of the European Commission’s antitrust ruling of 2017 that it had abused its position in general search to favour Google Shopping, its Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) channel for merchants, in relation to price comparison aggregators. 

Since the case was lodged in 2010, price comparison has receded as the key to consumers’ online purchases, also motivated by influencers, reviews, and browsing. Merchants use YouTube and Instagram to build brands, Facebook to launch products, and Google Shopping as the key alternative to Amazon for direct response.

The EU’s antitrust regime has once more solved yesterday’s problem, but this will shift for Big Tech to an ex-ante regime when the landmark Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act come on-stream.

 

Ofcom has approved the relaunch of BBC Three as a linear channel in February, and mandated that it will appear within the first 24 slots of electronic programme guides. The 2016 cost-cutting move online saw a loss of about 75% of viewing of BBC Three content

The linear relaunch has the potential to actually lower viewing of the channel's biggest shows. Transmission on BBC One and Two is the overriding driver of reach and discovery of all BBC Three's recent long-form shows, bar perhaps Normal People and RuPaul's Drag Race UK; the new channel will have lower prominence

Giving the channel a home of its own allows it to make the content it really needs to. Currently commissioning has the twin purpose of finding approval with the young whilst also holding up a proportion of the BBC One schedule. These are contradictory intentions

The government is intent on privatising Channel 4, largely as is, with some potential shifts to the remit and a re-evaluation of the Terms of Trade and the publisher/broadcaster model

We note a valuation range of between £600m and £1.5bn, depending on the scenario and the buyer’s ability to create cost-savings. The counterfactual—a competitor buying Channel 4—could be motivating, while many broadcasters could benefit from the sale given that the government will have to provide the buyer with surety around uncertainties like prominence, licences and gambling/HFSS advertising

Given the potential and incentive for a profit-oriented owner to game Channel 4’s current woolly remit, if the government wants to guarantee a continuation of the benefits C4 presents onscreen and to the economy, much consideration need be placed on making the obligations more quantifiable and trackable

ITV’s H1 advertising revenues were up 29% YoY—and up 2% compared to 2019—to £866 million, with the Euros and an improving market ushering in the biggest June ever for the broadcaster. Studios revenues rose 26% (to £798 million), which was 5% better than 2019

ITV’s new deal with Sky provides clarity around the relationship between the two companies, with ITV soon able to dynamically serve ads on both downloaded content and linear channels (but apparently not via Sky Adsmart) on Sky Q. By the end of 2022, the full ITV Hub app will be available on Sky Q

BritBox—which was not part of the Sky deal—has shown muted growth in the UK (adding 55k in H1 to 555k subscribers), while over the same period, international subscriptions lifted 18% (to 2 million)

Viewing habits are changing but live is still central to the TV experience

Television’s biggest shows are amongst the most timeshifted, and therefore have an outsized impact on the decline of live viewing debate

Viewing—not just of news and sport—is still overwhelmingly live, despite differences across genres and broadcasters

Across a range of genres, distinct local programming skews in popularity with the regional audiences it reflects. For example, Derry Girls’ viewing share in Northern Ireland is over 40% higher than across the rest of the UK.

However, market forces have cemented the dominance of London and the South East in terms of television production.

Moving more Public Service Media activity outside the M25 will rebalance production away from London, help fulfil a key commitment to serve all UK audiences, and differentiate PSM content from international services.

Early 2020 presented a nightmarish outlook for advertising revenues, but very strong late returns meant that total Channel 4 revenues were down just 5% YoY. Slashing content investment by £138 million, with production shut down and programmes deferred, resulted in an operating surplus of £71 million

Viewing share grew slightly in a weakened broadcasting environment, and given the fertile conditions, All 4 had a bumper year. COVID-19 may have even aided Channel 4’s existential transition to digital, but streaming services have outperformed

Despite fulfilment of its remit in a tough and unpredictable time, once again, privatisation is back on the agenda. We believe that it will be difficult to maintain the remit with a new buyer paying any more than a meagre sum, and even if that happens, a profit-oriented buyer will have incentive to game the obligations

The launch of the BBC’s blueprint for its approach to the Nations and Regions is timely, coinciding with the kick-off of negotiations over the BBC’s financial settlement for the next charter period.

If the licence fee were to be frozen or only an inflationary increase applied, by 2027 the BBC’s annual licence income would be £302-539 million lower in real terms. Just to maintain the BBC's current levels of funding, it would need an inflationary increase, plus an annual increase of 2.0%.

The BBC's commercial ventures are unlikely to cover any shortfall in licence fee income. To generate sufficient dividends to cover the shortfall for the PSB group, income produced by BBC Studios (and the BBC’s other commercial ventures) would need to grow by an order of magnitude.