The slowing UK economy since Q3 2016 has had a knock-on effect on the property and autos marketplaces underlying UK classified advertising revenues, with house prices slowing, transactions stabilising (instead of rising), and new car registrations down sharply in 2017 to date. Recruitment activity by agencies and employers has instead been dynamic as the UK nears full employment

Advertisers in these verticals continue to switch expenditure from print classifieds to internet portals and search, which offer superior lead generation, analytics, and user experience. Only in property do local newspapers still fulfill an important estate agency branding function for the local area, although declining readership is blunting this value to advertisers

Portal dominance comes at a price to advertisers in property, where Rightmove has resisted agent efforts to lessen dependence by listing on other brands, as well as in used autos, where Auto Trader has long reigned supreme. Recruitment is a more contested market for portals, reflecting the diverse and fragmented nature of the jobs market, but Indeed has a strong grip on the low-end, while LinkedIn remains unchallenged in social recruitment advertising

We estimate that UK online ad spend grew by 12.3% this year, with growth concentrated almost exclusively in mobile search and social in-feed advertising (particularly video), and mostly incremental to overall ad spend

Even after payments to publishers and distributors, Google and Facebook captured 80% of all net new spend in the market, and 96% of it flowed through their platforms

Despite improving standardisation and disclosure, the outstanding issues around measurement, the ad-tech supply chain, and particularly the obscure and growing Google/Facebook/Amazon segment, lead us to identify a large portion of digital advertising as a “grey market”: difficult to get a handle on, with uncertain beneficiaries and slippery definitions

Children’s media use and attitudes have dramatically changed over the last few years, stemming from the rapid take-up of smartphones and tablets

Traditional TV continues to decline at the expense of newer video services such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, with 43% of children aged 8-15 preferring YouTube videos over TV programmes

These online services offer content producers wider opportunities, but questions remain around the lack of regulation online, and the recent scandal around children’s safety on YouTube has heightened these concerns

Viacom’s 2014 acquisition of Channel 5 from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell occurred while the maelstrom encircling linear television viewing—sparked by the allure of SVODs and other digital distractions—was well underway

Nevertheless, with increased content spend, development of new titles and clarity as to its targeted audience, the broadcaster has increased its channel (and group) share amongst 16-34s and ABC1s, and has directed further benefits back to its owner's existing entertainment suite

Outside of the post-lunch and 8-10pm slots, however, work needs to be done: Channel 5’s BVOD proposition and social media offering leaves much to be desired, while the reliance on two major titles, Big Brother and Neighbours will be unsustainable in a post-linear world  

BARB data indicates that the amount of average daily TV set viewing to linear TV channels is continuing to fall: the pie is shrinking. Just under 20% of TV set usage so far in 2017 is to non-linear activity, and viewing to SVOD services and YouTube is likely to account for most of this growth in 'unmatched' viewing

The pie is shrinking faster amongst younger audiences: just under one third of TV set usage is 'unmatched' now for 16-34s. However 35+ unmatched use is growing at a faster rate than 16-34 unmatched use in 2017

Within this smaller pie, the PSB channels continue to hold share of viewing against pay channels. Within the PSBs, ITV and the ITV digital channel family have gained most share so far this year, although BBC1 is having a strong autumn in spite of the loss of Great British Bake Off to C4

Digital advertising in the UK has been a phenomenal success story, but a concentrated one, such that many online media companies have not found a sustainable model

User payments are growing, but are currently focused on large, expensive bundles: Spotify, Netflix, the New York Times. This implements a hard division between free and paid and limits the potential audience

Micropayments and microsubscriptions are alternative models which content owners in certain media can use to address more types of demand. Multiple obstacles remain but for many companies the need to experiment has become critical

Public service broadcasting (PSB) and the entire unique broadcasting ecosystem face huge challenges from global tech giants with deep pockets, data insights and scant regard for PSB prominence

All three pillars of the PSB model are threatened: content supply, distribution and advertising. The further threat of digital terrestrial TV (DTT) spectrum being reduced or turned off in c.2030 is real and PSBs must have a migration path in place

PSBs can counter some challenges through increased investment in content relevant to the UK consumer. But, recognising the aligned interests with pay-TV platforms of Sky and Virgin Media, collaboration between the parties is integral to the long-term future of PSB

Channel 4 revenues and content spend hit record levels in 2016, but the company faces a declining TV advertising market in 2017 due to a weaker economy and competition

The company’s ability to deliver its unique remit to audiences and producers is also under pressure from Government proposals to move staff outside London

Because Channel 4 can only commission, a move will not stimulate a creative cluster. Risks to the remit include the loss of talent and lower content spend due to higher opex 

Across Europe, markets are becoming more competitive. Incumbent pay-TV paltforms (e.g. Sky or Canal+) face increasing threats from both internet-based services (e.g. Netflix and Amazon), and telecoms operators

Telecoms providers are proving the most potent challengers as they enter the premium football rights market to create attractive triple and quad play bundles – examples include BT, SFR and Telefónica. The latter is now the main pay-TV operator in Spain whereas France’s Canal+ has entered into a strategic alliance with Orange

Across the top five markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), Sky remains the leading operator with an estimated 21.5m video subscribers, twice as many as Netflix

 

2016 has seen Channel 4 break new records in growing revenues and investing in content origination, whilst making further progress in delivering its remit and maintaining audience share for its main channel

However, the second half of 2016 and early months of this year promise a significantly tougher 2017 as the economic and TV advertising climate has worsened and the future is clouded with uncertainties

Channel 4 nonetheless starts from a relatively strong position financially and we expect it to be well capable of sustaining its remit under the leadership of its new CEO Alex Mahon, though much hinges on the outcome of the Government consultation on relocation