The government is intent on privatising Channel 4, largely as is, with some potential shifts to the remit and a re-evaluation of the Terms of Trade and the publisher/broadcaster model

We note a valuation range of between £600m and £1.5bn, depending on the scenario and the buyer’s ability to create cost-savings. The counterfactual—a competitor buying Channel 4—could be motivating, while many broadcasters could benefit from the sale given that the government will have to provide the buyer with surety around uncertainties like prominence, licences and gambling/HFSS advertising

Given the potential and incentive for a profit-oriented owner to game Channel 4’s current woolly remit, if the government wants to guarantee a continuation of the benefits C4 presents onscreen and to the economy, much consideration need be placed on making the obligations more quantifiable and trackable

Sky’s revenue was up 15% in Q2, back to pre-COVID levels despite some lingering pandemic effects such as most pubs and clubs remaining closed. EBITDA fell by a third, driven by higher costs from sports rights, since very few live sports events took place in Q2 2020.

The impact of “resetting” football rights is already evident in Germany and Italy, with 248k net customer losses across the group despite growth in the UK. However, Sky will make substantial savings, and we expect this will more than offset lost revenues.

Meanwhile, Sky continues to strike deals with other content providers, solidifying its position as the leading household entertainment gatekeeper. In time, apps for NBCU’s Peacock, ViacomCBS’ Paramount+, ITV Hub, and, in Germany, RTL TV Now and DAZN, will all be aggregated within Sky Q.

ITV’s H1 advertising revenues were up 29% YoY—and up 2% compared to 2019—to £866 million, with the Euros and an improving market ushering in the biggest June ever for the broadcaster. Studios revenues rose 26% (to £798 million), which was 5% better than 2019

ITV’s new deal with Sky provides clarity around the relationship between the two companies, with ITV soon able to dynamically serve ads on both downloaded content and linear channels (but apparently not via Sky Adsmart) on Sky Q. By the end of 2022, the full ITV Hub app will be available on Sky Q

BritBox—which was not part of the Sky deal—has shown muted growth in the UK (adding 55k in H1 to 555k subscribers), while over the same period, international subscriptions lifted 18% (to 2 million)

Viewing habits are changing but live is still central to the TV experience

Television’s biggest shows are amongst the most timeshifted, and therefore have an outsized impact on the decline of live viewing debate

Viewing—not just of news and sport—is still overwhelmingly live, despite differences across genres and broadcasters

Across a range of genres, distinct local programming skews in popularity with the regional audiences it reflects. For example, Derry Girls’ viewing share in Northern Ireland is over 40% higher than across the rest of the UK.

However, market forces have cemented the dominance of London and the South East in terms of television production.

Moving more Public Service Media activity outside the M25 will rebalance production away from London, help fulfil a key commitment to serve all UK audiences, and differentiate PSM content from international services.

Early 2020 presented a nightmarish outlook for advertising revenues, but very strong late returns meant that total Channel 4 revenues were down just 5% YoY. Slashing content investment by £138 million, with production shut down and programmes deferred, resulted in an operating surplus of £71 million

Viewing share grew slightly in a weakened broadcasting environment, and given the fertile conditions, All 4 had a bumper year. COVID-19 may have even aided Channel 4’s existential transition to digital, but streaming services have outperformed

Despite fulfilment of its remit in a tough and unpredictable time, once again, privatisation is back on the agenda. We believe that it will be difficult to maintain the remit with a new buyer paying any more than a meagre sum, and even if that happens, a profit-oriented buyer will have incentive to game the obligations

In a new chapter of a three year saga, the Ligue 1 awarded eight weekly games to Amazon for the 2021-24 seasons at a rock bottom price of €250 million per year, while Canal+ is left paying €330 million for only two fixtures per week.

Amazon makes a qualitative leap to become the lead broadcaster of a top domestic sport for the first time, probably reflecting more opportunism than a strategic shift.

Canal+ is asking courts to cancel the auction. Based on precedents, we expect the shift to undermine the total market for sport subscriptions.

A channel dedicated to personality-led opinion breaks from TV’s strong range of rolling news, bulletins and standalone debate programmes. Conceptually GB News is more like talk radio: audiences can dip in at any time of day to hear takes on stories.

A linear launch—especially one based on a new interpretation of Ofcom’s due impartiality rules—has generated headlines, but the stark commercial reality of sustaining TV news by itself remains.

Its own linear audience and paying member forecasts are optimistic for a service with limited prominence and a streamlined budget, though profitability may not be its only measure of success.

The Warner-Discovery and TF1-M6 merger plans have dramatically pushed consolidation up European commercial television’s agenda.

The first path—heralded by Bertelsmann’s RTL Group—would aim at creating
national broadcasters with the content scale to operate compelling online platforms.

An alternative path revives the never achieved idea of pan-European synergies,
leveraging increased international appetite for non-English language content—but
its champion, Italy’s Mediaset, lacks capacity to deliver. 

After a strong post-pandemic rebound, Sky has the opportunity to leverage its strong reputation with consumers to meet the challenge posed by new competitors and the studios’ direct-to-consumer transition, establishing Sky Q as the ultimate gatekeeper of video subscription homes.

Sports rights costs in Germany and Italy have been cut significantly, while Sky’s spend on UK Premier League rights will decrease in real terms. Savings will ease the financing of the shift to original content, which, associated with owner Comcast’s NBCU output, anchors the aggregation strategy.

Fibre deployment in the UK and Italy presents a subscriber and revenue growth opportunity, and underpins the gradual shift away from satellite to online content distribution.