European mobile growth was essentially zero year-on-year—a significant improvement thanks to annualisation of the pandemic but there is little evidence of the reversal of its negative impacts.

Italy saw the biggest improvement in its underlying trend as the pandemic continued to suppress Iliad’s momentum, while elevated competitive tension in Spain and France ate into their annualisation boost.

Mobility and flight data suggests that Q3 will evidence a bigger boost from renewed travel than in Q2—positive for roaming revenues—but that the improvement in mobility will be weaker than in the June quarter.

Amazon has been criticised by commentators, governments and sellers for giving its own products an unfair advantage on its online storefront, which millions of sellers depend on for discovery

This line of attack misses the point of Amazon’s business, which is to operate marketplaces and extract profits from suppliers through fees and services. This model raises its own questions about competition and fair trading, but self-preferencing is not core

Amazon's strategy needs both buyers and sellers, but it needs to focus on the experience for customers as the foundation of its market power

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)

Vodafone’s growth this quarter was a touch disappointing; the annualistion of the COVID hit was a clear boost but no evidence of any tailwinds. The 1.1% growth in the European markets should be the real focus for investors.

We see some evidence of positive initiatives from Vodafone such as its new EVO tariffs in the UK but it still has much to prove on operating momentum, especially in Germany.

There are signs that Vodafone is slow-pedalling in some markets and with demanding EBITDA targets and with leverage still finely balanced, we expect this focus on profitability to continue. The UK may be a special case.

Epic Games, maker of mega-hit Fortnite, sued Apple over alleged antitrust violations around App Store rules and Apple’s 30% tax on in-app transactions. A decision could come soon, though it will be contested on appeal.

The implications of the case could be far-reaching, as Apple and other tech companies like Google design their platforms to extract high-margin revenue from the transactions they facilitate, including news subscriptions: a five-year basic in-app subscription to The Times costs £885, of which Apple takes £158. 

It comes in the context of a flurry of debate and decisions around tech antitrust and consumer protection: new laws may ultimately be needed, but regulators in the US and UK are proving they can be creative with their existing tools. 

Sales of used and new cars fell 18% in 2020, impacted by the pandemic’s closure of forecourts, and bottlenecks in the supply chain. Consumer demand for private over public transport has strengthened, however, pointing to a recovery of car sales in 202.

Market leader Auto Trader posted a 29% revenue decline in the year ending in March 2021, largely from necessary but self-imposed subscription holidays. Auto Trader revenues are set to rebound in 2021 as the car market’s recovery emerges.

The pandemic accelerated the transition of the consumer car buying journey from the physical forecourt to the digital space. Fully digital transactions are edge-case, but there is huge opportunity for scale players to facilitate transactions—needless to say, Auto Trader looks to be a key winner.

Mobile growth dipped again to -3.3% for what we hope is the final time as widespread lockdowns impacted paid-for usage in most countries.

BT and Vodafone joined the other European MNOs in guiding to improving trends in 2021—expecting EBITDA momentum to be 7-10ppts better—slightly ahead of the 5-7ppts for the European operators.

We may even see positive revenue growth next quarter thanks to the simple annualisation of the first lockdown, with the UK the most to gain and Germany and Italy the least. Investment is creeping up too with higher capex guidance and better 5G momentum.

The consumer books market has flourished during the pandemic: following early worries, publishers are reporting strong growth and profits

However, bookshops, the most important point of contact between the industry and readers, are facing their toughest challenge yet as ecommerce booms and continued home-working saps high street footfall                                                   

Publishers and authors are embracing new, online ways of promoting titles. These will require new ways of working, and are not substitutes for dedicated shops, which must be protected as much as possible

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. 

Vodafone’s additional investment to boost a growth story that isn’t yet delivering failed to impress investors who value cashflow much more than promises for tomorrow, particularly given Vodafone’s track record with restructuring plans and product development.

It’s a surprising time to be splashing the cash with leverage still finely balanced and riding on Vodafone delivering a 10ppt turnaround in EBITDA growth next year vs last. Commercial activity looks set to continue to be dominated by EBITDA promises.

Selling a stake in Vantage Towers (temporarily) solved a leverage problem, but is creating a control problem, with the uncertain level of its future capex adding to investor concerns.