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    February 11, 2003

    The ITV Merger

    The public debate about the ITV merger has revolved around whether the maintenance of two separate sales houses is the appropriate remedy to be imposed by any Competition Commission inquiry. We argue that the real issues are more complex.

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    January 31, 2003

    SMS TV

    Interactivity via the TV set was one of the most misguided bubbles of the late 1990s. Fancy software and mini keyboards were supposed to provide a replacement for the PC. As matters have turned out, the use of SMS to accompany TV programmes is the means by which new technologies provide a limited form of interactivity to viewers.

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    January 30, 2003

    Canal+ vs. TPS

    On 23 January, the French Competition Council dealt what is likely to be a deathblow to the ambitions of Canal+ Group to obtain exclusive rights to French Premier League football events. The Competition Council ruled in favour of TPS and ordered the 2002 competition suspended pending delivery of its final ruling.

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  • EMI
    EMI
    January 24, 2003

    EMI Music Group

    A few weeks ago, it looked as though EMI would follow Safeway into a frenzied auction in which trade buyers competed with canny buy-out funds. The rumoured interest was sparked by the steady fall in EMI's share price over the course of 2002, which had reduced the value of the entire company to close to the perceived worth of the Music Publishing division.

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    January 22, 2003

    Tracing the Decline in ITV1 Viewing

    This report picks apart the evidence on why ITV1 is rapidly losing audience share. It shows that more intense competition in terrestrial homes is the key reason, not the impact of the growth of the multichannel universe. The decline of ITV1 is across all times of day and almost all demographic groups. Can ITV turn itself around in the face of this secular decline in audiences?

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    January 10, 2003

    French Broadband: The Final Battle?

    ISPs have long found it difficult to challenge Wanadoo on its home French market successfully. Wanadoo has built a commanding lead in the narrowband segment of the Internet access market, and dominates the DSL segment. This report examines whether 2003 will be any different, and finds that, if anything, the intensity of competitive pressures is likely to grow rather than diminish as market focus shifts from narrowband to broadband.

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    December 19, 2002

    UK Handset Survey

    We have recently completed our December survey of UK mobile users, which shows increased purchase intentions for handsets in general and camera phones in particular. We summarise the results in this note, which are good news for handset manufacturers, but more mixed for the operators.

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    December 17, 2002

    UK Competition Commission Investigation Update

    In January the UK Competition Commission (CC) is expected to issue its report on the pricing of mobile termination rates, an issue that was referred to it by Oftel after the UK operators rejected Oftel's initial decision. In this note we speculate on the likely contents of the report, and the impact on the UK mobile industry.

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    December 13, 2002

    Digital Television in Europe

    This report provides our forecasts for the growth rate of digital television homes in Europe over the next three years. We split countries into four groups and predict how the numbers of households with access to digital delivery of television will change in each group. The growth in satellite delivery has slowed considerably during late 2001 and 2002. The digitalisation of cable has stalled almost everywhere. So the only major uncertainty lies in the growth of digital terrestrial homes. This year has seen the failure of two of the four existing services, but the rebirth of the UK operator, in the form of the BBC's Freeview, may herald a more successful era. First indications are that Freeview is doing well. In other countries, however, the obstacles to the growth of a free-to-air service are more significant than in the UK and we do not believe that DTT will experience rapid growth in many other countries, despite the plethora of launches planned in the next few years.

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    December 12, 2002

    Can NTL Service its new debt?

    In the next few days, NTL expects to emerge from Chapter 11, relieved of $11 billion of debt. While the long negotiations over financial restructuring have been in progress, NTL management has been conducting a huge cost reduction exercise largely out of the public eye.

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    December 10, 2002

    TF1 – The Future of TPS

    This note looks at the position of TPS, the satellite pay-TV venture largely owned by TF1 in France. We particularly focus on the issue of payments for football rights because sports rights have become the crucial ingredient in pay-TV success, in France and elsewhere.

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    December 5, 2002

    Universal Music – Valuation

    Universal Music is an important component of Vivendi's business. As M. Fourtou shuffles his cards, the disposal or flotation of Universal becomes more likely by the day and this report values this market-leading record company.

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    November 29, 2002

    C4 and E4

    One response to the growth of the satellite and cable households has been for terrestrial broadcasters to launch their own digital channels. These channels are beginning to absorb significant fractions of the total programming budget and in this report we look at the implications for the parent broadcasters. We examine E4, Channel 4's main satellite entertainment channel, showing that it is likely to remain a drain on the parent for many years to come. Rather than ‘strengthening the brand' of terrestrial broadcasters, which is the reason normally given for diversification into satellite channels, our research shows that E4 and other services do nothing for the parent company and divert programming expenditure that would otherwise be usefully spent on the terrestrial service.

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    November 27, 2002

    Mobile and Internet Substitution

    Weak revenue growth has been a feature of both European and US fixed line incumbent operators over the last six months, with the root of the problem lying in poor growth, or even decline, in the volume of voice calls. This report looks at the reasons.

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    November 26, 2002

    Canal+ The Showdown

    Based on the recent announcement by the French Professional Football League, we now expect Canal+ to be awarded the exclusive rights to broadcast Premier League events for the three seasons starting in 2004, for which it offered €480 million. (Rival TPS is challenging the League's approach to the Competition Commission, so the story may yet have an unexpected ending.) These payments will add to an already hefty calendar of payments for Canal+ under the 1999 contract, as a result of which Canal+ is likely to report no or low profits in FY 2002. This note details the aggressive cost cutting and revenue-raising measures that will be needed to achieve a modest level of profitability going forward. By FY 2005, when Canal+ becomes the sole purveyor of Premier League events and payments rise by 60%, the subscriber base will have to be 180,000 higher just to maintain profits at 2004 levels. This seems a challenging target given that Canal+ lost 70,000 subscribers this year. In short, we think that Canal+ may have won the battle for Premier League rights at the price of its profitability in the medium-term.

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  • November 15, 2002

    The Song Remains the Same

    In spite of the widely publicised decline in sales of recorded music, the 'music publishing' business grew at an average annual rate of over 4% between 1995 and 2000. This report assesses the prospects for this important segment of the music industry.

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    November 8, 2002

    Canal+ and Cegetel

    The November 12th bids for football rights are a nightmare for Canal+. Its operating margins and cash flow are under pressure, but failure to outbid TPS would mean a probable loss of perhaps 25% of its subscribers. This makes it likely, we think, that TPS will end up buying Canal+ from Vivendi, whoever wins the football rights, at a much lower price than the valuation of €3.5bn suggested recently by Morgan Stanley. Similarly, Vivendi may realise that it will be forced to sell the studio and the record business to Bronfman/Diller for less than current valuations. This potential devastating scenario perhaps explains why M. Fourtou is so keen to buy the rest of Cegetel, rather than selling out to Vodafone. Otherwise he would have little else left to manage. Or perhaps he is simply playing poker with Chris Gent, but running the risk that he ends up over paying. Vodafone cannot lose. It will either buy Cegetel now, or wait for it to fall into its hands when the bankers withdraw support for Vivendi.

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  • November 6, 2002

    UK Digital TV Forecasts

    This note provides our forecast for the number of UK households able to receive extra television through satellite, cable and terrestrial multi-channel platforms. Though Sky's performance has been strong this year, subscriber growth has been largely at the expense of cable and digital terrestrial. We expect this pattern – Sky outperformance within a slowly growing multi-channel universe – to continue. We are pessimistic about the prospects for Freeview, the BBC's new digital terrestrial platform. The programme offering is weak and too directed towards the under 35s, who now largely already have digital television. The technical problems of obtaining better coverage for the service remain severe.

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    November 4, 2002

    BT Broadband

    In this report, we show that price competition between ISPs is helping to push broadband penetration to higher levels than we expected. BT is likely to achieve at least some of its targets for broadband connections. However, this is at the expense of profitability. We suggest that BT Retail is unlikely to make money on broadband connections, particularly in view of the high acquisition costs and the potential for subscriber churn. We also note that the BT strategy in broadband is crippling other ISPs.

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    November 4, 2002

    UK Internet Trends Q3 2002

    This note shows the mixed evidence on household penetration. Most surveys report a distinct plateau in subscribing household numbers in the UK, particularly compared to France and Germany, where numbers are still growing. Other surveys show a continuing rise in individual users. On balance, we think the data does point to a clear deceleration in the growth in subscribing households. Current penetration is just over 10m homes, or 40% of the UK total.

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    November 1, 2002

    Mobile Device Update

    In this short note we look at three data product offerings recently launched by the operators: Vodafone Live!, the Orange SPV and Vodafone Mobile Office laptop card service. Vodafone Live! follows a sensible strategy of having the operator define the user interface to help drive revenues, and is launched with two new light and compact handset models. However, the service has many glitches, with only the camera function working as well as it should, and very few of its target market will be likely to be able to afford the handsets. The SPV and laptop cards, being aimed at business users, stand a much better chance of being affordable to their target market, but we wait to see if those products are marketed and executed well.

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    October 28, 2002

    UK Consumer Magazines

    The UK consumer magazines business has shown steady growth and stable profitability, though some individual participants have suffered from failed attempts at international expansion. The industry has overcome the advertising recession very successfully so far. This is partly because only 30% of revenue is derived from advertising, but also because page rates have continued to be firm. Though profit margins are currently lower than regional newspapers, the sector shows considerable scope for improved returns. Several factors lie behind this assessment. The first is that growth of Internet households will slow, possibly to 10%, although expansion will be faster than in the UK or Germany. The second is that Wanadoo, as the ISP arm of France Télécom, continues to benefit in our view from advantages that other ISPs cannot match, significantly reducing customer acquisition and retention costs, whether on narrowband or on broadband. Actions taken by the regulator have largely been too little, too late.

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    October 28, 2002

    Vodafone Live

    Vodafone Live represents an attempt to claw back some of the initiative from handset manufacturers, and to offer product and services that add to revenue. We look at the early evidence from the UK about the design of this package, its consumer appeal and the likely impact on ARPU. Vodafone is launching this new campaign with a Java-enabled camera phone from Sharp. It is putting tens of millions of pounds behind Live, apparently targeting the product at young urban males, a demographic group that has become very loyal to Nokia. The first phone is attractive and well featured, but we question whether it is of sufficiently general appeal significantly to influence overall ARPU in European markets, particularly in light of the low levels of interest we are finding in our consumer research on camera phones. Our most recent survey of handset purchase intentions shows a dramatic increase in interest in buying a new phone among UK adults. 39% of handset owners claim an intention to purchase in the next year, compared to about 30% in the last three bi-monthly surveys.

  • EMI
    EMI
    October 6, 2002

    Robbie Williams

    What prompted EMI to spend about £60 million to acquire Robbie's next two records and to buy options on the next four? Even for an artist as successful as Robbie Williams, the numbers do not add up. Having sold less than 6 million units of his last album, EMI appears to be gambling that his next two records will sell more than 8 million units each, of which 2 million need to be in the US.

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