Ongoing supply difficulties for PlayStation and Xbox through 2022 and beyond will result in the install base for the generation being permanently impacted. It raises the question: if you can’t buy a console are they even relevant?

VR will stage a comeback this year, as Quest 2 has its highest sales ever, the category will find new appeal from game (and metaverse) developers. If a rumoured Apple VR/AR headset eventuates, expect white-hot interest

Netflix will make strides in its games service―but mostly behind the scenes to deliver a once in a decade transformation of the industry. Don’t rule out a critical and exclusive mobile hit

Seven years after the launch of its membership initiative, The Guardian has reached one million digital-only subscriptions

Not coincidentally, longer-term financial sustainability looks within reach, as The Guardian posted an adjusted operating profit of £3.1 million in 2021, with reader revenues making up more than half of total income

A fine-tuned governance structure and key management changes indicate better alignment between the core journalism activity and the enterprise, designed to ensure that its independence is sustainably delivered

DMGT prepares to end its tenure as a plc, as the Rothermere family finalise a takeprivate offer of £2.9 billion (c. 18.8x EBITDA) and make a swathe of new appointments as it seeks to reconfigure the business

The Daily Mail newspaper is the crown jewel in the company’s assets, as the wider portfolio has recentred around consumer media

The road ahead is still foggy, with a rickety bridge between its print and online brands—a strategic risk for DMGT, yet also a key opportunity in UK media

 

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.

 

The UK print media sector is facing escalating input cost inflation. Newsprint prices are 50% higher year on year in Q4 2021, noting that prices in 2020 were exceptionally low on soft demand. Based on 2019 rates, prices could be 25% higher in H1 2022. The squeeze on margins for print could destabilise the economics of supply overall

Newsprint inflation is being caused by soaring costs of recycled feedstock, exacerbated by the monopoly of a single supplying mill in the UK after years of attrition. Imports remain substantial, but impaired by the EU-wide crisis in the supply of paper products, alongside bottlenecks at points of entry to the UK

Although less significant a factor than paper in the cost of printing the news, electricity cost inflation is another worry for printers, noting that these costs were again also exceptionally low in 2020. Wholesale electricity prices surged by 80% in 2021 (Ofgem), due to pressure on gas supplies from Russia, and the global energy crisis, which will persist into 2022

 

 

Netflix’s decision to launch games as part of the subscription bundle is smart business: rewarding current subscribers, leveraging its IP, and signalling that subscription is the best long-term revenue model in the games space. 

Expect technological innovation to be central to Netflix’s ambitions with games. Netflix will make it easier for different game experiences to occur, and ways to attract external developers will inevitably follow. 

For Disney, Netflix just made the battle for customers more difficult and more expensive.  Disney will need to make hard decisions about how to approach the games business—something it has shown before it finds difficult to do. 

Amazon has been criticised by commentators, governments and sellers for giving its own products an unfair advantage on its online storefront, which millions of sellers depend on for discovery

This line of attack misses the point of Amazon’s business, which is to operate marketplaces and extract profits from suppliers through fees and services. This model raises its own questions about competition and fair trading, but self-preferencing is not core

Amazon's strategy needs both buyers and sellers, but it needs to focus on the experience for customers as the foundation of its market power

Epic Games, maker of mega-hit Fortnite, sued Apple over alleged antitrust violations around App Store rules and Apple’s 30% tax on in-app transactions. A decision could come soon, though it will be contested on appeal.

The implications of the case could be far-reaching, as Apple and other tech companies like Google design their platforms to extract high-margin revenue from the transactions they facilitate, including news subscriptions: a five-year basic in-app subscription to The Times costs £885, of which Apple takes £158. 

It comes in the context of a flurry of debate and decisions around tech antitrust and consumer protection: new laws may ultimately be needed, but regulators in the US and UK are proving they can be creative with their existing tools. 

The press industry lost £1 billion off the topline from the calamitous decline in print revenues due to pandemic-related mobility restrictions, partly offset by gains on digital subscriptions, much harder to precisely size in revenue terms.

Trapped at home for the most part, online traffic to BBC News and news publisher services boomed. Popular news sites marginally grew digital advertising while the quality nationals attracted 800,000 new paying subscribers to reach nearly three million in 2020.

The outlook for 2021, in the transition to the ‘new normal’, is mixed. Consumer work patterns and news, information and entertainment habits are unlikely to ‘bounce back’ to pre-pandemic levels, placing free commuter titles at particular risk. Signs of confidence through online innovation are welcome.