With sport at the heart of the pay-TV ecosystem, dedicated online-only streaming services could emerge as a threat to leading players like Sky 

The liveliest newcomer, DAZN, launched in 2016 with mostly second-tier sports. Now in seven markets and counting, it has recently made bold moves into top-flight competitions, notably in Italy, albeit as a secondary player 

History has not been kind to those challenging pay-TV incumbents by selling sports unbundled—particularly in Europe, as Setanta, ESPN, beIN SPORTS and Mediaset can testify. If DAZN can stick to secondary positions in premium rights, or simply less-expensive sports, perhaps it will fare better 

When its acquisition of 21st Century Fox closes, Disney will own 60% of Hulu. If it bought Comcast’s 30% stake (and WarnerMedia’s 10%), it could fully leverage the platform for its US direct-to-consumer strategy

Comcast’s Hulu stake has little strategic value to it. We argue it should sell to Disney in exchange for long-term supply deals for ESPN, as well as for the upcoming Disney+ and Hulu, similar to its recent pacts with Amazon Prime and Netflix

This could naturally be extended to Sky in Europe depending on whether Disney decides to launch all direct-to-consumer or sticks with pay-TV in certain markets

There is a belief in some quarters that there is space for a myriad of large SVOD services in the UK. We question whether there is room for more than the current three pacesetters; Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV

Like the UK, the US market is dominated by three services, and there is evidence of an appetite for further offerings. But the US market is conspicuously different to the UK's, with the forces behind cord-cutting in the States less apparent this side of the Atlantic

Potential domestic UK services would struggle to compete with the resources—supported by debt-funded and loss-leading models—that foreign tech giants can marshal

PSB SVOD

The Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) have been mulling a possible SVOD service, a decade after their ad-supported Project Kangaroo was blocked on competition grounds

Even if a reboot between the BBC and ITV were this time to be approved, we do not think Kangaroo 2 can succeed as a significant SVOD entrant in its home turf of the UK, above all because it’s too late

Other flaws in the offer are that it would be too small, non-premium, too old (archive), and too old (viewing profile), plus lacking sufficient financial resource to produce a pipeline of unique series

Video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook video, enjoy a light-touch regulatory regime for harmful content and advertising. As video viewing of non-broadcaster content grows, the regulatory gap between TV broadcasters and video-sharing platforms widens, part of a broader uneven playing field for publishers and platforms.

However, there is momentum against this: the “platforms vs publishers” divide looks set to weaken in EU law, and the platforms themselves are investing more in combatting harmful content within a self-regulatory regime, though their internal policies and outcomes are still opaque.

Effective and fair regulation of video-sharing platforms would involve the balancing of national freedom of speech conventions and the public utility of user-generated video hosting with concerned stakeholder views: something approaching a co-regulatory system for online video-sharing platforms.

Disney’s potential acquisition of certain 21st Century Fox assets is assuredly a play for further scale at a time when the company’s traditional domain, the family home, is increasingly welcoming services such as Netflix.

The deal will consolidate Disney’s dominant film business. But also, the robustness of traditional television, especially 21CF’s cable interests, along with IP assets, will allow Disney to better control the inevitable viewer transition from linear to online and on-demand.

Becoming the one media company with both a strong broadcast and online offering—the control of Hulu, a new Disney streaming service, ESPN+ and other add-on services—could grant Disney the ability to navigate the storm of change and dictate its own future.
 

The TV, the main screen in the house, is rapidly becoming connected to the internet, opening a new front in the battle for people's attention

Tech players, pay-TV operators, and manufacturers are all aiming to control the user interface, ad delivery and data collection, leaving incumbent broadcaster interests less well represented

To protect their position, and the principles of public service broadcasting, broadcasters will have to work with each other at home and in Europe to leverage their content and social importance

The BBC is concerned with the performance of the iPlayer, handicapped by its inability to monetise its content. Nevertheless, as it moves towards an all-IP future, it is experimenting with new content strategies

Data from Digital-i shows that the iPlayer's Christmas Boxsets brought 360,000 unique viewers/week to the BBC portfolio; an audience which skewed encouragingly young

Furthermore, case studies of two of the programmes made available over this period—Peaky Blinders ​and ​Hard Sun—provide insight into how people consume content delivered this way, something that has been difficult to ascertain due to the major SVODs' secretive treatment of their own data

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

We interviewed the biggest hitters in the UK television production sector, asking them about the current issues affecting their industry, such as consolidation, Peak TV, and Nations and Regions quotas

Most pertinent, however, was the production sector’s relationship with the new buyers—Netflix, Amazon, Apple et al.—and how their approach to them differed for each one, as well as traditional broadcasters when pitching, negotiating deals or producing programmes

With views anonymised for candour, this report is an honest representation of an industry where quality and volume are both at an all-time high, despite the challenge of change brought about by these new players