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.

VMO2’s inaugural results reinforced the company’s focus on profitability with EBITDA growth of 6% and record margins. Flat revenues year-on-year benefited from the annualisation of the COVID-19 hit but incorporated little by way of rebound.

Much remains to be seen in terms of strategy but indications thus far are reassuring with B2B a clear focus for revenue growth, and the benefits of direct distribution feeding through to profitability.

The company’s decision to build an overlay full fibre network is a bold, but smart, move—allaying justified obsolescence fears about its network, enhancing strategic flexibility, and reducing its cost base.

Post Brexit, Vodafone has followed EE's lead in reintroducing roaming fees for some mobile packages. We expect Virgin Media O2 and the MVNOs to follow suit, with H3G's approach more uncertain.

This move is somewhat inevitable as current arrangements leave operators exposed to up to €75 of monthly wholesale charges, and even more as legacy EU wholesale deals expire.

We don't envisage a return to the days of super-normal returns from roaming, but it is nonetheless conducive to much-needed price inflation in the sector.

BT’s revenue growth bounced back by 3ppts in Q1, and EBITDA growth surged into positive territory for the first time since 2018, enjoying significant bounceback as it lapped the start of the pandemic.

Some aspects of the bounce are temporary, but some business lines are yet to recover at all, and there are positive signs of an underlying return to sustainable growth across much of BT.

Openreach’s momentum continues to grow with much more to come, and VMO2’s switch to full fibre reduces a long-term upside but introduces no significant new downside in our view.

  • The three lockdowns since Q1 2020 shifted the sales of ‘non-essential’ stores (e.g. clothes) to online, with deconfinement releasing the oxygen of pent-up demand to the high street, eroding online’s share
  • For vendors of ‘essential’ goods (e.g. food and drink), which stayed open, Work-From-Home (WFH) shifted a large portion of spend to in-home purchases, with both offline and online spend remaining elevated in Q2
  • The share of online in retail sales (excluding fuels) dropped from its peak of 34.7% in Q1 2021, when the UK was in its third lockdown, to 27.6% in Q2. This is still up 10 ppts from 18.7% in Q2 2019, evidence of a new post-pandemic normal, as mobility to retail and recreation destinations remains impaired

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. 

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

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.