The UK continues to lead the EU5 in take-up and consumption of video-on-demand services, with close cultural alignment and a historic williness to pay for TV content making it a receptive home for US SVODs

Netflix dominates in most markets, benefiting from high-profile US imports and big-budget local productions. Local SVODs are struggling, with those operated by FTA broadcasters facing considerable challenges

Collaboration between local broadcasters and pay-TV platforms is essential if they are to hold at bay the threat of Netflix and co., with an increasingly favourable regulatory environment opening the door for unprecedented collaboration

The Federal Communications Commission’s Privacy Order (FCC) was overturned by the Senate, clearing the way for ISPs to ramp up consumer data-driven advertising revenue.

While Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising in the US as in other markets, the US is alone in removing regulatory barriers to ISPs taking a piece of the pie.

US ISPs now have a self-regulatory regime for consumer rights on transparency, security and data breaches; but in the UK and EU, privacy advocates prefer enforceable rights.

The US scripted content boom is spilling over into Europe: Free-to-air TV drama ratings have proven resilient but as costs and audience expectations have risen budgets are under pressure, necessitating flexible co-financing arrangements with American broadcasters, and Netflix and Amazon. Pay channels have boosted output—with uneven results

Long-term IP control is a key factor behind independent production consolidation, led by broadcasters seeking a secure stream of content and diversification away from advertising

Notable developments include the new wave of Berlin-based, internationally-financed series, the rise of domestic French content and Sky Italia’s edgy originals, Telefónica’s giant leap into Spanish dramas, and the continuation of Britain as an export powerhouse

In this report we show our analysis of trends in UK broadband and telephony to March 2012, based on the published results of the major service providers.

Highlights for the March quarter include broadband subscriptions exceeding 21 million, a sudden uptick in broadband market net additions and local loop unbundling accounting for a record 40% of broadband subscriptions. The proportion of unbundled lines that are fully unbundled exceeded two thirds for the first time.

This quarter we also include a look at pricing, including prices for high speed broadband that show how BT Retail is using high speed broadband to reduce the price advantage of its competitors.

Vodafone’s proposed acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide is far from a done deal and is unlikely to be completed until September

The cost synergies are real but likely slim, with the main rationale being to cost effectively expand Vodafone’s fixed enterprise business in the UK, and to gain the expertise to do this elsewhere

The impact of an acquisition, while gradual, would reverberate for years to come. Wireline wholesalers, then corporate service retailers would be affected, notably BT. Later, the impact could spread to the small business segment. The prospect of Vodafone’s re-entry into the UK residential wireline market would remain distant but more likely

In this presentation we show our analysis of trends in UK broadband and telephony to December 2011, based on the published results of the major service providers.

Highlights for the December quarter include a return to the lower rate of broadband market growth seen prior to mid-2010, accelerating growth in the number of subscribers to high speed broadband and the continuing increase in market share of BT Retail and BSkyB at the expense of virtually all other players

This quarter’s edition includes a look at Openreach’s wholesale FTTP On Demand, planned for launch in 2013.

Following announcements by Virgin Media to double the speeds used by most cable customers, and by BSkyB to launch high speed broadband offer in April based on Openreach’s wholesale VDSL product, by 2016 we now expect about half of UK residential broadband subscribers to be on high speed broadband, i.e. xDSL or GPON at 30 Mbit/s plus, and DOCSIS at 20 Mbit/s plus

Cable & Wireless Worldwide’s new CEO Gavin Darby has outlined a turnaround strategy for a business which is not performing that badly in context, against the backdrop of Vodafone considering a bid to buy the company

Mr Darby’s strategy is yet to be finalised, but in outline contains lots of initiatives which are good in theory but hard to implement in practice, especially in a weak macroeconomic climate, in the face of intense competition

Integrating Vodafone UK’s mobile wireline backhaul and core networks with C&W WW’s UK network would yield slim synergies, as the most expensive part of Vodafone’s wireline network has little overlap with that of C&W WW

We think that Vodafone is more likely to be interested in using C&W WW to help sell integrated fixed-mobile products to corporate customers, and, to a lesser extent, SMEs. Whether the benefits will outweigh the significant integration headaches is something only Vodafone can decide

Cable &Wireless Worldwide’s performance for the six months to September was weak but made to look worse by one-offs

Underlying performance continues to be hit by strong competition and loss of voice revenue, but the impact of this has been made worse by underinvestment in data centres and neglect of the wholesale and SME businesses

The outlook for the year to March 2012 is poor, in line with the June warning. Beyond that, further investment in hosting and related capabilities will be necessary, and we continue to expect modest growth

Openreach has announced large cuts in the prices of some important components of physical infrastructure access (PIA). A further substantial reduction in duct prices is possible as a result of an adjustment by Ofcom to Openreach’s regulatory asset value (RAV)

The reductions are helpful to the economics of bids by altnets such as Fujitsu for government funds to deploy rural next generation access (NGA), and to Virgin Media, as it expands its existing cable network footprint

However, the economics of NGA continue to strike us as challenging and we expect the impact of PIA on BT to be modest due to the remaining potential wholesale revenue, and BT Retail’s ability to use third party PIA-based networks

Advancing its free-to-air TV project, France’s Canal+ is to buy Bolloré TV’s national channels for €465 million to gain (scarce) licences for FTA terrestrial broadcast

Canal+ plans to leverage its library of original programming to attract upscale audiences, neglected by commercial rivals

However, the Vivendi investment case of a 9% return on capital is built on incompatible assumptions about profit margins and market share – to grow the latter in a mature market, a channel needs to sacrifice the former