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

 

 

 

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.

 

Spotify paid $5 billion in royalties last year to the music industry. Critics claim the $0.0038 per-stream average royalty rate is too low. However, this is largely due to high volumes of ad-funded listening, a core part of Spotify’s freemium model, and a defence against piracy. 

To silence the critics, the “Spotify Loud & Clear” site presents data on the distribution of industry royalties, which are heavily skewed to established artists. Only the top 5% of artists generate annual industry royalties above $1,000, though they take home less under their deals. 

The remaining 95% of artists on Spotify generate under $1,000 a year and use the platform mainly to reach fans that attend live gigs, their primary source of income, now halted by the virus. These artists’ problem is digital discovery, as Spotify’s playlists push hits rather than the midlist. 

With a lack of live sport, the lockdown weighed on incumbent pay-TV platforms’ subscriptions. SVOD providers leveraged their cheap positioning—Netflix and Amazon Prime Video now rank above other subscription services in Europe, and Disney+ had a successful launch.

Incumbents—Sky, Canal+, Movistar+—all pursue a twin-track strategy. They are positioning themselves as gatekeepers thanks to service bundles, while redirecting resources away from sports towards original series.

European productions are increasingly garnering audiences outside of their home markets, regardless of the production language. Netflix is a major conduit for European exports, due to personalisation of the interface and high-quality dubbing.

Investors warmly welcomed WMG's IPO of non-voting shares in March, valuing the company at $12.8bn, a 388% increase in the company's valuation since Len Blavatnik acquired it in 2011

Investors are placing a bet on music streaming. WMG's strength in the US market due to R&B and Hip-hop in its catalogue allowed it to outperform UMG and Sony on recorded music over 2015-19, an advantage that will dissipate when growth shifts to emerging markets

COVID-19 impacts explains WMG’s 6% decline in recorded music revenues for calendar Q2 2020, despite an 8% rise in digital revenue, as revenues from physical sales (vinyl and CD) sank, and also those from artist services due to the halted 2020 live music season

The COVID-19 crisis is compounding the already grim revenue prospects for upcoming football rights sales in continental Europe.

The financially weakest leagues in Italy and France are especially exposed. Serie A is exploring deals with private equity firms, with the pros and cons finely balanced.

There is a window of opportunity for Sky and Canal+—the adults in the room—to build coalitions with selected clubs to nudge leagues towards needed reforms including longer licence terms, reducing the number of clubs and more equal revenue splits.

Despite operating in a challenging market, Sky has continued to increase revenues, with the resilient performance of its direct-to-consumer and content businesses offsetting the disappointing drop in advertising income.

Across FY 2019, EBITDA was up 12.2%; profit growth driven by a significant reduction in “other” costs as large one-off effects disappear and cost-cutting continues.

Extended distribution deals with Netflix and WarnerMedia will protect Sky’s content proposition for the coming future, as would the mooted integration of Disney+.

Audiobooks are growing fast, driven by smartphone adoption and better supply, as well as interest from people who don’t usually buy books, such as young men

The sector is dominated by the presence of Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publisher/retailer, which has driven growth of audiobooks but put publishers under pressure. Its strategy is a lesson in Amazon’s approach to media

Audio is an opportunity to sell to new customers, but publishers must acquire and use rights responsibly, and experiment while not letting the audio tail wag the print dog