DMGT prepares to end its tenure as a plc, as the Rothermere family finalise a takeprivate offer of £2.9 billion (c. 18.8x EBITDA) and make a swathe of new appointments as it seeks to reconfigure the business

The Daily Mail newspaper is the crown jewel in the company’s assets, as the wider portfolio has recentred around consumer media

The road ahead is still foggy, with a rickety bridge between its print and online brands—a strategic risk for DMGT, yet also a key opportunity in UK media

 

The UK’s Q3 GDP growth paints a picture of stolid recovery, leaving GDP still 2.1% below the pre-pandemic peak in early 2020. We expect Q4 will be much stronger, mainly due to booming retail—very beneficial to advertising growth—and returning the economy to peak GDP early in 2022

We predict record highs for retail sales in Q4 with volumes surging on the back of base effects in the previous year, seasonal highs, and ongoing work-from-home (WFH) practices, compounded by a 6-8% YoY increase in retail prices, which could yield up to 14-16% sales value growth

Aside from fizzing retail, the economy enters 2022 facing headwinds from bubbling CPI inflation as energy prices surge on global markets, higher prices for food and other essentials, and Brexit-induced shortages of labour and goods that are hard to alleviate in this island’s economy

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

Vodafone’s leverage issue continues to drive its strategy and operational focus, as evidenced in its H1 results with solid EBITDA but lacklustre revenues.

Its leverage crisis is severely exacerbated by the prospect of a fibre build in Germany as well as a sizeable headwind to its cable business momentum there. Further sell-downs at Vantage will help and we view the prospects of consolidation as slightly improved, with Spain the most promising option.

Growth in the UK appears to be on hold and the outlook is mixed with VMO2’s notice for early termination for its MVNO, ongoing B2B weakness expected but significant inflation-linked price rises on the cards.

The UK print media sector is facing escalating input cost inflation. Newsprint prices are 50% higher year on year in Q4 2021, noting that prices in 2020 were exceptionally low on soft demand. Based on 2019 rates, prices could be 25% higher in H1 2022. The squeeze on margins for print could destabilise the economics of supply overall

Newsprint inflation is being caused by soaring costs of recycled feedstock, exacerbated by the monopoly of a single supplying mill in the UK after years of attrition. Imports remain substantial, but impaired by the EU-wide crisis in the supply of paper products, alongside bottlenecks at points of entry to the UK

Although less significant a factor than paper in the cost of printing the news, electricity cost inflation is another worry for printers, noting that these costs were again also exceptionally low in 2020. Wholesale electricity prices surged by 80% in 2021 (Ofgem), due to pressure on gas supplies from Russia, and the global energy crisis, which will persist into 2022

 

 

Facebook has been caught unawares by the significant impacts of privacy changes to its advertising revenue, posting an uncharacteristic quarterly decline as its costs are set to spiral

Facebook’s ageing user demographics are a long-standing and growing issue, as competitor platforms erode Facebook’s attraction to the young. Recent negative PR only compounds a brewing problem of relevance as social media shifts towards being content, rather than network-driven

By pinning its name to the metaverse, Facebook hopes to redefine its narrative and claim the benefits of managing the platform of the future, but significant challenges in the entertainment, enterprise, and tech spheres stand in its way

Our UK-wide analysis of Google data on travel to work and to other destinations, at the granular level of Local Authority Areas, reveals the early return to pre-pandemic levels of mobility in smaller urban and rural areas, driving the UK’s economic recovery to date, while travel within cities remains depressed 18 months into the pandemic

On weekdays, work-from-home (WFH) for office workers is a core driver of reduced mobility in London and other cities reliant on public transport, recovering on weekends, but mainly to local destinations. Outside cities, the car is used for transportation, explaining the faster recovery of mobility there

Disposable income inequalities have widened between office workers that saved due to WFH and essential workers and those in B2C activities in cities have not had the privilege of WFH. The quicker return to offices in smaller urban and rural areas has restored pre-pandemic expenditure patterns

Apple’s latest software update continues its drive to limit the data that can be collected about iPhone users as they browse the internet. Prior changes have had an effect on ad prices for publishers, and on advertiser results

The new changes target cornerstones of profiling and targeting: IP and email addresses. The impact will be gradual, but could be profound if takeup is high

The lesson for publishers is that no technical implementation of targeted advertising is safe. Layering third-party data on top of anonymous audiences is not a future-proof business model

Netflix’s decision to launch games as part of the subscription bundle is smart business: rewarding current subscribers, leveraging its IP, and signalling that subscription is the best long-term revenue model in the games space. 

Expect technological innovation to be central to Netflix’s ambitions with games. Netflix will make it easier for different game experiences to occur, and ways to attract external developers will inevitably follow. 

For Disney, Netflix just made the battle for customers more difficult and more expensive.  Disney will need to make hard decisions about how to approach the games business—something it has shown before it finds difficult to do. 

The pandemic accelerated the print revenue decline of consumer magazines in the UK, plunging 12% in 2020; less than half of 2020 industry revenues are due to print. Larger publishers and established titles (e.g. The Economist) will survive the UK’s journey through the pandemic whilst ecommerce, a growing revenue stream for publishers, booms under work-from-home

Publishers now distribute content across multiple channels and reader touchpoints, blurring the lines of what a magazine is today. A focus on the reader economy has finally emerged, enhancing other revenue streams for brands in the right verticals. Execution relies on investment in the tech stack

Future is the UK star, led by its ecommerce revenues from surfacing products and services to readers. This prime position has allowed it to build further scale and consolidate titles from TI Media and Dennis. Despite Future’s successes, there is no single industry playbook as heterogenous titles and portfolios forge their diversified, digital paths