New SVOD entrants are prioritising reach over revenue in the US with extensive ‘free’ offers, including Apple TV+ (to hardware buyers), Disney+ (to Verizon customers), HBO Max (to HBO subscribers) and Comcast’s Peacock (to basic cable homes)

This is the latest development in an unfolding global story of partnerships, continuing on from multiple Netflix and Amazon distribution deals with platforms, bringing benefits to both parties

In Europe, Sky faces price pressure, but it has secured its HBO partnership and can now talk to Disney from a position of strength

ITV experienced a slightly-less-than-expected 5% drop in advertising revenue which was alleviated by lower H1 content scheduling costs, reflecting the timing of major sporting events

Love Island continues to be a ray of light, increasing its viewership and guiding the ITV Family audience share to an eleven-year high, while ITV Studios revenues were down but reportedly still on track for its 2019 targets

More information was provided on the Q4 rollout of streaming service BritBox and the addressable advertising platform for ITV Hub. ITV must be active in these areas but late entry presents problems and questions  

Disney announced that it would acquire Comcast’s 33% share of Hulu in a put/call agreement that can be enacted by either party from January 2024, while taking full operational control of the vehicle immediately.

Under the agreement Disney will pay Comcast a minimum of $9 billion for its current stake, provided Comcast fulfils agreed capital calls, which going forward would be just over $500 million/year.

Disney secured the continued licensing of NBCUniversal content for Hulu, contributing about 30% of Hulu’s library, but Comcast can loosen obligations to Hulu for the launch of its own SVOD service in 2020.

Disney now controls third-party content aggregator Hulu, which has 25 million subscribers in the US. Ramped up by Fox content, Hulu’s operating losses are expected to peak in FY2019 at $1.5 billion, with profits by FY2023 or FY2024 

Serving only Disney content, Disney+ launches in the US at the low price of $6.99/month this November, and in 2020 in Europe and Asia Pacific in 2021, aiming to reach the challenging goal of 60-90 million subscribers in five years

ESPN+, Hulu, Disney+ combined could contribute 13% of Disney’s revenues by 2024, which does not intend to disturb existing channels and windows for catalogue and new content, aside from withdrawing content from Netflix

The split of UKTV has been announced with the lifestyle channels going to Discovery, while the balance, along with the UKTV brand and VOD service, retained by the BBC, costing BBC Studios £173 million

In the same release, a new, global Discovery SVOD “powered” by BBC natural history and factual programming was announced, backed by a ten-year content partnership

The deal is a positive step for the BBC, which safeguards against flaky brand attribution internationally and the potential loss of revenues from Netflix, which is becoming more choosy when acquiring content

After the heights that Love Island and the World Cup took ITV to in H1, the broadcaster held on over the tougher last few months of 2018 to see growth in ad revenue (0.8%) and total viewing (linear and VOD, 3%).

However, it was the announcement of the subscription video service BritBox—with the discussions around the “strategic partnership” with the BBC in its concluding phase—that garnered most interest.

ITV’s investment in the service is modest when compared to its global competitors—up to £25 million in 2019, £40 million in 2020 and declining thereafter—but it is a prudent low-risk entry into what is an expanding but difficult market.

With the UK perhaps Netflix’s most valuable market outside the US—home to a stellar production sector—the streaming service is escalating its foray into local production, opening a content hub in London and moving from co-productions to direct commissions

As UK content completely dominates UK video viewing outside of the SVODs, to expand subscription reach Netflix is endeavouring to become an alternative to the PSBs’ entertainment output; this local spend is efficient given the universality and worldwide appetite for British content

With a growing proportion of local content expenditure now coming from Netflix and other SVODs, there are ramifications for both broadcasters and producers—loss of viewing, potential market pressure, increased competition for premium content and hesitancy around their own SVOD plans—along with implications for the cultural landscape