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  • March 16, 2015

    Apple Watch: the next must-have device?

    Apple has provided more details on its smartwatch range, on sale from April, priced between $350-$17,000 to appeal to a wide range of would-be buyers and initially focusing on enhancing the iPhone through added convenience. The Watch is likely to develop quickly in the next few years, and has the potential to become an indispensable tool for managing payments, health data and identity, as well as controlling other connected devices. The company is laying the foundations for Watch to become a must-have device, but the case is still to be made and ultimately its success depends on a number of key groups and factors outside Apple’s control.

  • March 12, 2015

    GE 2015 update Scotland’s 57 SNP seats

    Scotland could produce up to 57 SNP MPs (of a total of 59 seats in Scotland), up from 6 in 2010: from “How many seats to the SNP?”, the question now is “Which Scottish seats won’t the SNP win?”. Labour’s losses in Scotland could be more than offset by Con-to-Lab and Lib-to-Lab swings in England, leading to our estimate that Labour and the Conservatives will each garner ~270 seats, well short of the practical majority of 322 seats, producing a hung Parliament as the initial outcome of GE2015. A possible scenario for the emergence of a working government is a Labour minority government sustained by the SNP votes through a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement for major votes and issue-by-issue on other votes, a weak form of government.

  • March 10, 2015

    YouTube and its MCNs: growth and variety

    YouTube remains the dominant online video site globally, although competition for the viewer is growing from OTT video and other popular apps. Reach and consumption appear to be slowing in the US and the UK, but YouTube reports strong growth in global watch time as smartphone adoption proceeds. The number and variety of Multi-Channel Networks (MCNs) on YouTube continues to grow. Music video MCN Vevo has so far been the largest single presence on YouTube, but it is being overtaken by the combined Disney/Maker Studios MCN. In contrast to the aggregator MCNs with tens of thousands of channels, studio MCNs have much smaller network sizes and a higher share of owned channels. Their focus on content curation and creation has allowed some to build global audiences of repeat viewers, a unique strength and of significant appeal for advertisers.
  • February 27, 2015

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q4 2014: Growth, invest [...]

    The UK residential communications sector continues to be in rude health, with revenue growth in Q4 accelerating by 1ppt to 5.7%, the strongest it has been for years, with all of the operators enjoying an improvement. Volumes were strong, and ARPU even stronger, with the latter driving most of the revenue growth progress, driven by firm pricing and high speed broadband adoption. Growing revenues and profits in an industry tends to encourage both investment and competition, and this is certainly the case in the fixed telecoms market, as BT announced plans for higher speed services using G.fast and Virgin Media announced a 4 million premises network expansion. The timings suggest that Virgin Media will keep its edge; given historic trends and its network capabilities we expect it to be offering superior speeds to G.fast by the time G.fast hits the mass market. In competitive terms the biggest short term threat is EE, which is growing its broadband base at 15%, and may accelerate further in 2015. Its success appear to stem not so much from the raw appeal of ‘quad play’ bundling as improved performance in the mechanics of cross-selling from physical shops. EE itself may be less of a threat if its planned merger with BT is completed, but Vodafone is launching broadband services in the spring, and H3G/O2 may yet be encouraged into the market.

  • February 20, 2015

    Virgin Media Q4 2014 results: Growing and building

    Virgin Media’s Q4 results were strong across all measures, with household, RGU and all product net adds accelerating, revenue accelerating, and OCF growth. As demand for high speed broadband grows, Virgin Media is benefiting by offering the fastest top speeds and by being the cheapest provider for speeds over 30Mbps. The company has announced a £3bn investment to extend its network by 4m premises, which may win it an extra 6% share of the broadband market at the expense of BT, Sky and TalkTalk.

  • February 9, 2015

    Bigger than ever: Apple’s Q1 2015 results

    The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus drove Apple’s most extraordinary quarter ever, with the company’s position in the smartphone market improving on all fronts: explosive growth in China, rising market share in the US and a rising average sales price. By contrast, iPad sales continued to decline in spite of the iPad Air 2’s release, suffering from cannibalisation by the phablet-sized 6 Plus and saturation in developed markets. Apple has a strategy to revive sales, which may bear fruit later in the year. A slate of new products is coming this year, led in the spring by Apple Watch. The question is, will Watch be a significant new source of profit or just a way to protect the iPhone’s dominant position in the smartphone market.

  • February 9, 2015

    European Sky plc on the go: Q2 2015 results

    Sky plc, the coming together of BSkyB, Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia, has enjoyed an excellent start, as adjusted H1 2015 figures delivered a 5% increase in revenues versus a 3% increase in costs, resulting in EBITDA growth of 7% and with free cash flow up by 25%. The strong financial results were accompanied by strong subscriber growth figures, especially in the operations covering Austria, Germany, Ireland and the UK, while all markets showed large reductions in churn, reinforcing confidence in the strategic approach of Sky plc. It is too early to assess Sky’s delivery of its target group synergies. Individually, the former BSkyB and Sky Deutschland markets may be showing much stronger subscriber and product growth, but they also look to be more exposed to risk over football rights, while Sky Italia has more going for it than may appear at first sight.

  • February 6, 2015

    TalkTalk Group Q3 2014/15 results: Revenue accelerates, margins m [...]

    TalkTalk’s revenue growth accelerated to over 4% in Q3, despite a tough comparative, with a price increase towards the end of the quarter and robust corporate revenue growth helping, giving it good momentum into 2015. Broadband net adds of 15k were unchanged on the previous quarter, disappointing given a broader market bounce, but the company expects acceleration next quarter. The company warned of lower than expected EBITDA margin in H2 2014/15, making its medium term 25% target look more challenging, but margins are still likely to improve going forward.

  • February 6, 2015

    Vodafone Q3 2014/15 results: Recovery continues, especially in th [...]

    Vodafone Europe’s service revenue growth continued to recover into its Q3, with the growth of -2.7% a further improvement of over 2ppts. This was largely driven by improved subscriber numbers, with contract ARPU in general still falling, although in the UK it notably returned to growth, with the pending consolidation bringing both threats and opportunities. Vodafone’s Project Spring investment appears to be bringing benefits before it is even halfway complete, boding well for its future impact.

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  • February 3, 2015

    BT Q3 2014/15 results: Fibre evolves

    BT Group revenue growth dropped to -1%, but entirely due to one-off factors, with its consumer division accelerating underlying growth and roughly maintaining broadband net adds share. Fibre net adds had a record quarter, driven by growth at Sky/TalkTalk et al, and BT is trialing the next generation of high speed broadband which could sustain profitable wholesale revenue growth for years to come. Upcoming developments over consolidation, quad play and sport rights are likely to continue to dominate the headlines, but it is growing capacity demand and BT’s ability to meet this that will drive BT’s long term value.

  • February 3, 2015

    Digital UK 2015

    This Digital UK 2015 report is a collaborative effort by research partners Enders Analysis and EY. Encapsulating materials in the public domain and proprietary to the partners, it sets out to demonstrate the vibrancy of the UK’s digital economy and its potential for growth. Key UK strengths include: Rapid expansion of Next Generation Access (NGA) network coverage and 98% population coverage of 4G by the end of 2015 thanks to private and public investment. 45 million adult consumers on fixed line broadband and 45 million forecast to be using mobile broadband by 2020, thanks to the embrace of smartphones and tablets. Business e-commerce sales to consumers and other businesses of £556 billion in 2013, or 20% of non-financial business turnover, on a par with the US. The UK’s world-class digital infrastructure and its vast pool of smart connected consumers are unique strengths, and could be converted to leadership on the digital business models of the future. However, as important as the tech industry is to the future of the UK, the UK’s many existing businesses in other sectors could also aspire to be ‘fit for the digital age’. This will not only drive value for UK businesses, but if pursued energetically, it will help resolve the UK’s productivity puzzle.

  • January 29, 2015

    DTT is safe until 2030

    Ofcom anticipates opposing the use of core DTT spectrum for mobile broadband at WRC-15 in November in recognition of the importance of broadcasting. Assuming the aligned UK and wider European position prevails at WRC-15, DTT spectrum will be exclusive to broadcast until 2030, providing certainty for broadcasters and programme makers to enable ongoing investment in the platform. However, there will be continued pushback from the mobile network operators to expand the spectrum made available to mobile broadband earlier, and broadcast will need to remain as vibrant and competitive as it is today.

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  • January 28, 2015

    UK mobile user survey: High on networks, low on convergence

    Customer movement between operators shows susceptibility to dynamism in branding; O2 are picking up the majority of EE churners as customers move to the new “cool brand” while EE pull in Vodafone churners tempted by the new “best network”. O2 have the lowest churn though the lion’s share move to Vodafone and H3G churners are more evenly picked up by the other three. Customer perceptions of own operator network quality are high among the big 3 with no less than 75% of customers reporting theirs is the best network. O2 is the best regarded while H3G is the least best regarded highlighting a stark contrast between the (prospective) merging parties. Consumers report little interest in quad play and indeed operators in the both fixed and mobile markets have publicly confirmed the same from other market research. However the arrival of converged players in the form of a merged BT/EE or Vodafone re-entering the fixed space will see operators seeking to change this.

  • January 27, 2015

    H3G and O2: Three and two makes Three

    The posited deal merging H3G and O2 would create a new largest UK mobile operator with 40% market share, with massive synergy benefits available from cutting overlapping network and operations costs. Regulatory hurdles would be very significant, and the remedies required may well counteract the benefits of reduced network operator competition, as they will be designed to do. For Vodafone and EE, the impact will be mixed; a potentially aggressive competitor is removed, but their preferred positioning as being the best mobile networks is under threat.

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  • January 26, 2015

    End of Netflix tightrope just in sight

    In marked contrast to its Q3 2014 results release, Netflix reported a strong Q4 with respect to paid subscriptions that was ahead of company guidance and consensus expectations. The positive news about subscriber numbers, which saw a sharp jump in share price immediately after the results, was heavily reinforced by Netflix’s announcement of its aim to expand its global base from 50 to 200 countries over the next two years and generate a material profit from 2017. As usual Netflix provided no international details other than to say that LatAm had passed the 5 million milestone in Q4. Elsewhere, BARB data suggest that Netflix passed the 4 million milestone in the UK, while it is still too early to assess the longer term potential of its September launches in France and Germany.

  • January 16, 2015

    Ofcom fibre margin squeeze test: Putting pressure on BT Sport cos [...]

    Ofcom has decided to implement a fibre margin squeeze test on BT, starting in March, which will include the costs of BT Sport as part of the calculation. Ofcom has stated that on its preliminary figures, BT does currently pass the test, but given earlier statements we conclude that it does not have a lot of headroom. This will make it challenging for BT to absorb the extra costs for its Champions League rights hitting from July without breaching the test, and even harder to absorb an increased cost for Premier League rights, reducing its incentive to bid aggressively in the upcoming auction.

  • December 17, 2014

    Women at Work 2014

    Underpinned by a legislative regime since the 1970s designed to prevent sex discrimination and unequal pay between men and women, the UK has enjoyed successive and ever bigger waves of young women gaining the education and skills to enter the work force as professionals, now standing at 5 million strong. The UK also boasts 1 million female-led companies and the digital age has greatly expanded the opportunity for entrepreneurship for women to be their own bosses. The workplace inflicts a stiff ‘motherhood penalty’ that produces a yawning gender pay gap for women in their 40s and 50s as men more readily gain access to managerial and executive positions, radiating from there to board positions, where Lord Davies’ initiative for FTSE companies has led some to endorse the merit of a diversity of directors on boards. On the whole, however, employers often overlook the potential to optimise talent management practices to accommodate maternity and support the work-life balance of employees, prevent sexism and unequal pay, and offer women an equality of opportunity to accede to top jobs. Companies that do so could be more likely to establish a lasting competitive advantage and the UK economy will gain too from releasing the talent and energy of women at work.

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