The pandemic years boosted many businesses selling services on subscription in the UK: work-from-home gave people more time and money to widen the services they enjoyed in the home, such as gaming, entertainment and music, also boosting engagement with trusted news

The cost-of-living crisis dented the number of subscribers to OTT SVOD and news services in Q2 2022. Broadband and mobile are must-have; bundles of services (e.g. Sky’s pay-TV and broadband or mobile) are more resilient; yearly and multi-year contracts prevent churn relative to monthly contracts; and services that cater to passions (e.g. football) are always need-to-have

Subscription (or supporter) media and news services reaped the demand for trusted news through the pandemic, but now face a tough challenge to their toplines from the economic downturn—and also to transition to a sustainable business model for media audiences, while advertisers are also feeling the heat

Revenue decline accelerated in Q2 as the cost-of-living crisis appears to be impacting UK sales, but profits remained strong thanks to last summer’s Continental sports rights reset.

In Italy, DAZN will return on Sky’s platform just in time for the new Serie A football season, filling a key gap in its aggregation strategy.

Looking forward, thanks to its enhanced profitability, Sky has the flexibility to respond to the economic downturn using pricing and content.

  • Under a revised deal, DAZN, the Serie A broadcaster, is now allowed to expand its distribution to the Sky platform in return for a reduced fee from TIM, the incumbent telco
  • The new-look Italian market is consistent with DAZN’s approach elsewhere in Europe, seeking blanket distribution and avoiding head on challenges with incumbents
  • For the Italian sports rights market, the agreements clear the air, but Serie A needs deep reform

The UK's cultural industries remain the strongest in Europe and digital distribution is a strong vector for the globalisation of British culture

The international reach and reputation of UK news providers is unparalleled, with the BBC, the largest news provider globally, reaching half a billion users weekly

Independent commissioning drives a dynamic ecosystem of TV exports with global clout—worth an estimated £3.4 billion—that remains stable despite Brexit

Sky continued to grow its UK revenue thanks to price rises, mobile customer additions, and a rebound from lost hospitality business in early 2021, but this was still outweighed by the recent reset of its Italian operation.

Aggregation remains a core focus, with Paramount+, and Magenta Sport in Germany, added to Sky’s bundles, while fibre rollout will intensify with the launch of Sky Stream puck as a standalone device later this year.

Declining buying power raises uncertainty over consumer behaviour: in previous recessions, pay-TV performed well, but today subscribers have more video options than ever before.

Streaming had a strong 2021 with royalties to rightsholders, labels and music publishers increasing by 24% to $16.9 billion (IFPI). Spotify drove the segment’s rise as the leading service by users and subscribers (422m and 182m) followed by subscription services Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music, while YouTube is both ad-supported and subscription

Spotify’s 2021 revenue growth of 22% was powered by user growth (+18%) around the world on the subscription (16%) and ad-supported tiers (19%). User growth represented a deceleration from the pandemic-induced exceptional rise of 27% from 2019 to 2020

Spotify reports royalties generated by artists on its Loud and Clear platform. The number of artists in 2021 generating material revenues—over $10,000—increased by 24% to 52,600. 28% are ‘self-distributing artists’ using services such as Distrokid, TuneCore, CD Baby—the number almost trebled since 2017

 

 

 

Sky’s performance across 2021 significantly improved, driven in Q4 by a nice c.5% growth rate in UK consumer revenues and the advertising rebound, but effects of the pandemic are still being felt with EBITDA down 30% on 2019.

The decline in Group revenue accelerated in Q4 due to the severe shock to the Italian operation from its loss of most premium football coverage, although we see upsides in a possible rights reshuffle.

In 2022, Sky can leverage growth vectors including bigger content bundles, Glass, advertising innovations and broadband. Consolidating SVOD and telecoms markets may be more favourable to price increases.

Podcasts are a small but growing medium, and global streamers and domestic audio players alike are investing heavily in podcast content, distribution and advertising technology.

The broadening choice and diversity of podcasts available has put discoverability, exclusives and personalisation at the heart of the race to become the number one destination for audio.

While the UK currently lags other markets in terms of advertising and monetisation, increasing financial viability coupled with
healthy listener demand suggests a bright future for the UK podcasting sector.

 

Overall radio listening remains robust and continues to make up the majority of audio time, however a worrying decline in both reach and hours amongst younger people makes further innovation necessary

Shifting audio distribution trends driven by digital and IP listening, as well as the increasing influence of smart speakers and connected devices, represent significant challenges for the radio industry going forward

Strong collaboration and regulatory support will be needed to reconnect with elusive younger listeners, prevent US tech companies from becoming de-facto gatekeepers, and preserve the public value at the core of the UK radio industry

Sky has started to reap benefits from its substantial reduction in sports rights costs in Italy and Germany, helping to grow group EBITDA by 76% in Q3, despite a slight drop in revenue.

With this change in strategy, the business model in Italy is undergoing an upheaval. Meanwhile, the UK continues to perform well, with further promise on the horizon thanks to the bold launch of Sky Glass.

This streaming TV is a future-proofing leap forwards in Sky’s ever-more-central aggregation strategy, starting the business down the long path to retiring satellite, though this is probably still over a decade away.