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 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.

As private sector employers faced an unprecedented degree of uncertainty, the volume of vacancies fell 60% from 2019 to 2020, driven by the arts & entertainment, food & hospitality and retail sectors, leading expenditure on recruitment advertising to fall by 32%.

In 2021, vacancies for temporary placements are surging as society proceeds to unlock, with the near-term labour market tight, boosting expenditure on recruitment. Our concern is the masked unemployment in B2C sectors that will emerge should furlough end on 30 September. 

Judging by global revenue trends in FY2020, professionally-oriented networking platform LinkedIn gained from demand for hiring served by paid-for listings, also filling demand for events. Indeed, which serves the high-volume but lower-value end of labour markets, with a less fruitful budget and cost-per-click model, suffered mild revenue decline.

The press industry lost £1 billion off the topline from the calamitous decline in print revenues due to pandemic-related mobility restrictions, partly offset by gains on digital subscriptions, much harder to precisely size in revenue terms.

Trapped at home for the most part, online traffic to BBC News and news publisher services boomed. Popular news sites marginally grew digital advertising while the quality nationals attracted 800,000 new paying subscribers to reach nearly three million in 2020.

The outlook for 2021, in the transition to the ‘new normal’, is mixed. Consumer work patterns and news, information and entertainment habits are unlikely to ‘bounce back’ to pre-pandemic levels, placing free commuter titles at particular risk. Signs of confidence through online innovation are welcome.

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.

Apple is bringing in privacy changes on iOS that could hurt ad-funded apps. 

Responding to platforms’ legitimate push for user privacy is a trial for regulators in the midst of building new online antitrust regimes. 

Antitrust rulings are chipping away at the App Store’s stringent terms of use, but reforms will keep it at the centre of the iOS universe. 

Advertising income has been the lifeblood of commercial TV for decades, but declining linear audiences—combined with digital video alternatives—mean the TV advertising model must evolve to ensure it remains as potent a medium for brands as ever.

Lack of effective audience measurement and somewhat opaque advertiser/agency/sales house relationships are hampering linear TV advertising revenues. Both issues need resolving to underpin a healthier ecosystem overall.

Flexibility is key to this evolution. A move to audience buys across most linear and BVOD inventory would provide greater flexibility and targeting for advertisers, and would sit alongside some premium context buys. A greater onus on volume deals would give broadcasters more certainty to invest in content and their advertising propositions.

Mobile revenue growth improved slightly to -3% this quarter, primarily thanks to a weakening in the drag from the loss of roaming.

European MNOs are guiding to improving trends in 2021—broadly stable revenues and EBITDA vs declines of 5-7% in 2020. This bodes well for guidance from the UK players around mid-May.

However, the outlook is far from rosy, with Q1 2021 still very challenging ahead of an annualisation of the pandemic drags from the June quarter. Growth prospects remain contingent on the resumption of travel and the economic climate.