The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) delivered its Web IV ruling on statutory SoundExchange licensing rates for webcasters for 2016-20, raising Pandora’s total music royalty costs by a forecast 12% in 2016

Had the CRB sided with SoundExchange, rates for Pandora’s non-subscription tier would have shot up 79%, leaving the company floundering in a sea of red ink

Nevertheless, these increased licensing costs for Pandora over 2016-20 will postpone the moment when the company attains net profitability

European mobile service revenue growth again improved, albeit marginally, with the quarter’s gain driven by declines easing further in what nevertheless remain the three weakest markets: France, Italy and Spain. Generally stabilising pricing environments were a key factor although ARPUs in these markets remain largely in decline, under continued pressure from strong out-of-bundle revenue declines

In a post-consolidation world, H3G/O2 in the UK and Yoigo in Spain will be the only mobile-only MNOs in the top five European mobile markets, effectively cementing a convergence based future. Consolidation trends might point to the prospect of greater price stabilisation but a fresh land grab for the converged market could derail this

Overall, in spite of healthy underlying data trends, we continue to see medium term growth recovery prospects capped at around 1% given precedent from both the UK, where a healthy economy, healthy pricing environment and strong data trends have failed to exceed this level, and Germany, where post-consolidation revenue growth has reverted to negative territory, both due to competition and consolidation

UK mobile service revenue growth remained at 0.9% in Q3, but on an underlying basis growth increased 0.1ppts to 1.4%. This continues a trend of very gradual improvement in underlying growth over the past year, while reported growth has stayed constant at around 1% due to the re-introduction of regulated MTR cuts on 1 May 2015

Within the market, performances were mixed. O2 remains a service revenue growth star performer thanks to strong sustained contract net adds and stable contract ARPU while Vodafone’s service revenue growth fell back into decline as its contract ARPU suffered due to a sharp fall in out-of-bundle revenue. EE’s contract net adds were strong, but its contract ARPU growth remains weak, partly due to its renewed contract net adds performance being supported by low ARPU data devices and B2B

Since the end of the quarter, on 28 October, the CMA provisionally approved the BT/EE acquisition without conditions, and on 30 October, the EC opened an in-depth investigation into H3G/O2. Both acquirers would be wise in our view to be wary of making any rapid changes to branding and/or channel strategy, given that EE and O2 account for nearly 60% of UK gross subscriber additions between them and disrupting these sales will have a significant impact on subscriber growth, as EE’s experience since dropping Orange and T-Mobile has shown

EE reported strong mobile contract net adds in Q3, after a string of weaker performances earlier in the year following the closure of Phones 4U and retirement of the Orange and T-Mobile brands

Contract ARPU growth remained at -3.1%, keeping mobile service revenue in modest decline (-1.4%), a disappointing result in comparison to modest positive growth at its rivals in recent quarters, although improving subscriber numbers should start to bridge this gap

Fixed broadband subscriber growth suffered in a competitive quarter, with EE unable to maintain momentum when faced with the launch of BT Sport Europe and corresponding increased marketing spend from Sky

Sky has got off to a good start in 2016, as Q1 group revenues grew by 6% and operating profits by 10% year-on-year, while churn stayed low across all three operations, and product net additions of close to one million pointed to continuing strong underlying growth

The Q1 results have softened concerns about the impact of loss of Champions League live televised rights in the UK and Italy, which have so far shown very little effect in spite of intense competitive pressures from BT and Mediaset

Although Sky UK & Ireland has accounted for the entire year-on-year increase in Q1 operating profits, strong subscriber growth in Germany & Austria over the last two years, and signs that economic conditions in Italy are on the mend, provide a positive outlook for the year ahead

European mobile service revenue growth improved to the highest in over four years driven by improvements in the three slowest growing markets of late. Out-of-bundle revenues are still declining at a rate of over 10% but data revenue growth trends point to underlying strengths in the revenue profile. Looking at the longer term picture begs the question as to whether the quarter’s improvement can be repeated over the next 18 months, transforming the industry into one with extremely healthy revenue growth of 5%-10%; on balance we are not very optimistic

Two major in-mobile transactions are yet to be approved by the EC, namely H3G/O2 in the UK and an H3G/Wind JV in Italy. The recent precedent from Denmark is somewhat discouraging, although the Danish consolidation was unusual in some respects. Nonetheless comments from the new competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager suggest that regulatory caution towards 4-to-3 mergers is still high

Progress towards convergence is continuing with few operators in a post-consolidation world being either 100% fixed or 100% mobile. Convergence has to date been discount-led and damaging to market revenues, but post-consolidation, operator rhetoric has been reassuringly more focused on intentions for increased investment in both LTE mobile networks and high speed fixed networks

Germany remains the second largest market in Europe for the exploitation of composition rights by their authors, with €382 million paid out to them in 2014, up 8% on 2013 (63% share of distributions on average). The German Government intends to secure an even “better balance for authors” in their contracts with music publishers, by allowing the composer to “re-tender” their contracts after five years to secure a better deal

GEMA, the collecting society, has a strong position in Germany and is poised to lead the development of the digital single market for online music services. Together with PRS for Music (UK) and STIM (Sweden), GEMA has formed a joint venture (JV) to offer multi-territory licensing and copyright administration services to services, music publishers and other CMOs, cleared by the EU Commission

Music publisher revenues from domestic collections could rise from €225 million to €247 million from 2014 to 2017, due to a moderate rise in broadcast revenues on the back of the economic recovery, a boost to public performance revenues from a higher live music tariff and flat royalties from recorded music expenditure, as the decline of physical mechanicals is offset by the rise of online royalties

In Italy, pay coverage of the Champions League shifted from Sky to Mediaset Premium this season. Alongside a new Serie A contract, this adds an extra €300 million to Mediaset Premium’s cost base

The first results indicate that Mediaset is unlikely to meet its subscriber growth target. On current trends we expect cumulative EBIT losses of over €400 million by 2018

Mounting losses may force Mediaset to close or sell Premium, but fear of Sky may slow decision-making. Sky was probably right not to overbid for the Champions League and the savings should more than offset minor subscriber losses

UK mobile service revenue growth dipped a touch in Q2, falling to 0.9% from 1.0% in the previous quarter, although all of the dip and more was due to the reintroduction of mobile termination rate cuts in the quarter, with underlying growth rising to 1.3%

O2 is now the fastest growing operator in both contract net adds and service revenue growth terms, exceeding even the much smaller H3G, and its revenue growth lead over EE and Vodafone expanded during the quarter

BT’s consumer mobile launch was relatively successful from BT’s perspective, with it garnering 100k subscribers in the first three months, but this appeared to have no impact at all on the mobile operators, which had a relatively strong quarter for contract net adds in spite of this. We conclude that much of the fixed line MVNO base growth is coming from impulsively upgrading prepay users, consumers wanting a spare SIM and other MVNO customer bases – sources that do not threaten the MNOs

EE remains the slowest growing of the ‘big 4’ UK MNOs or the only one in decline with service revenue growth at -1.8%, a touch lower in reported terms despite a slight underlying improvement

Adjusted EBITDA margin improved to a record 26.6%, a somewhat fortunate compromise on the loss of gross adds share since the demise of Phones 4U – and associated reduction in (expensive) third-party gross adds

In a seasonally low broadband quarter, EE actually gained net adds share, showing resilience to heightened marketing from Sky and underscoring the merits of EE’s in-store cross-selling strategy