UK Media

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  • August 20, 2018

    Sky UK 2017/18 full year results: Winning the game of content

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    Sky maintained strong revenue growth of 5% in 2017/18, with EBITDA and operating profit both bouncing back into strong positive territory after the UK Premier League rights hit of 2016/17. The UK grew revenue well and profits better; Italy performed well and should improve much further given the retreat of its principal competitor; Germany is more challenged, but extra content investment may aid sustained growth. Sky is proving adept at managing content costs and revenue in a changing environment, with investment, cost control and monetisation all being put to effective use as the content type demands it.  
  • August 20, 2018

    Virgin Media Q2 2018 results: Measured approach in a tough market

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    Virgin Media had a mixed quarter, with subscriber ARPU growth maintained, partly driven by a triple play focus with pay TV and telephony adds much improved, but subscriber and broadband net adds unchanged. Cable revenue growth did slow from 3.6% to 3.1%, mainly due to the previous quarter’s net adds slowdown working through, and it is still growing the fastest of the big operators in a slow-growth market that still suffers from pricing pressure at the low end. Its network roll-out was slower than last year and only just above the weather-impacted previous quarter, which appears to be deliberate, and which may at least partly relate to an uncertain regulatory and commercial climate over ‘full fibre’ roll-out by others.  
  • July 30, 2018

    Quality media, Ozone protection

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    The Telegraph, The Guardian and News UK (The Times and The Sun) will jointly invest in The Ozone Project to develop a state-of-the-art platform to sell their digital inventory. Ozone will add value to news digital inventory and seek to win back advertiser expenditure on Facebook and Google’s various properties, (indirectly) reigniting interest in placement next to quality news media content. Each JV participant operates a distinct business model, which risks friction, but this digital reboot is crucial. By 2020, Ozone could add circa £30 million per annum – not a trivial contribution to a national newspaper newsroom.  
  • TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    July 13, 2018

    UK TV platform forecasts to 2022: stability rules

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    Despite significant changes in people’s video viewing habits over the last few years, the TV platform landscape has appeared to reach an equilibrium. We expect pay-TV to retain its utility status for most existing customers. At the margins, movement from Sky and Virgin Media to free-to-air or pay-lite services will be mitigated by population growth. The excitable growth phases for Netflix and Amazon are likely to be over, but they have carved out prominent positions in the market. Meanwhile, the uncomplicated allure of free TV remains strong for half the UK.
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  • June 25, 2018

    Hitting targets, but pushing too hard? TalkTalk Group Q4 2017/18 [...]

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    TalkTalk hit both its subscriber and EBITDA targets for 2017/18, but Q4 contained some worrying trends including core consumer revenue in decline despite strong subscriber growth, with strong business revenue growth compensating. It held fast on guidance for 2018/19, although the 15% target underlying EBITDA growth is largely driven by regulated cost cuts, and revenue growth may be (again) achieved through the business side, which will be purely wholesale following the sale of its direct business customer base. Having spent the last few years not growing retail subscribers enough in a growing market, TalkTalk is now perhaps trying to grow too fast in a mature market, putting pressure on its ARPU from new and existing customers alike.  
  • June 19, 2018

    Advertising after the turning point: When offline is the exceptio [...]

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    Online advertising became the majority of all UK ad spend last year, in step with China but ahead of all other major markets. Direct response has further increased its share to 54% of UK ad spend, fuelled by the self-serve platforms of Google, Facebook and Amazon, while content media nets just 11% of the online advertising pot. We estimate that all online-delivered channels - including "pure play" online properties, broadcaster VOD, digital out-of-home and online radio - could account for well over 60% of UK ad spend by 2020, but only with improved commitment to industry governance.
  • TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    June 11, 2018

    Disruption in Premier League football? 2018 auction finally over

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    The latest auction of live Premier League broadcast rights commencing in 2019/20 has concluded at last, with three different winners for the first time. The total sum has not been confirmed, but it looks to be down c. 10% from the previous auction at £1.55 billion per season—still substantial, and not far off the BBC’s entire TV content budget. As we predicted, Sky and BT remain dominant, winning 180 of the 200 games per season, whilst new entrant Amazon picked up one of the leftover packages at what looks to be a very low price.  
  • TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    June 6, 2018

    Football embraces Chinese ‘hot’ money – at a risk

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    In a display of chutzpah, Mediapro acquired the Ligue 1 domestic broadcasting rights from 2020-24 in what is the most disruptive shock to the French broadcasting industry in a generation; one that is likely to accelerate Canal+’s decline, force a review of the outdated regulatory framework, and possibly spur an M&A spree. The Mediapro move only makes sense as a highly speculative bid to resell the rights, or a dedicated channel, to French platforms in 2020. The odds are high that the broker ultimately fails to fulfil the contract, as just happened in Italy, where Sky is now expected to get the Serie A licence. Precedents of new entrants acquiring domestic top-flight rights bode poorly for Mediapro, and for the league. The Ligue 1 may live to regret the introduction of a ‘re-sell right’ into its licensing terms.  
  • May 30, 2018

    BT new Consumer strategy: Converging, but in a good way

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    BT has emphasised ‘convergence’ in its new Consumer strategy, but it has avoided most of the usual fixed-mobile convergence mistakes, with separate brands, minimal discounting and only slightly flawed converged products. The general strategy is to improve customer service to improve market share trends (particularly in broadband), enable premium products/positioning, and allow for cross-selling of a strong set of converged (in a broader sense) products, which is very sensible in our view. It does require extra spending in the short-term to improve customer service and the perception thereof (particularly in broadband) before premium positioning and cross-selling can be effective, therefore improved trends at the bottom line may take some time to come through.
  • May 23, 2018

    BT Q4 2017/18 results: Slowing broadband bites, but recovery pos [...]

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    BT Group met expectations for the 2017/18 financial year, but future guidance is very modest compared to previous performance and financial market expectations, with 2018/19 revenue and EBITDA both guided to decline by around 2% with capex rising. In our view, this weakened outlook is primarily driven by the ongoing slowdown and increasing competitiveness of the UK broadband market, with operating metrics at BT Consumer particularly weak. BT’s re-vamped strategy looks good in parts, and could deliver the incremental improvements necessary to outperform the new (much more modest) expectations, helped by existing – and likely continued – strength in mobile.
  • May 15, 2018

    Covert growth in UK mobile

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    The UK mobile market is growing strongly – we estimate revenues by 5% and EBITDA by 8% in 2017 – excluding one-off regulatory drags and the loss of non-profit-generating handset revenue. Regulatory price cuts end in mid-2018, and the handset effect will disappear from all reported figures from April 2018, leaving scope for very positive headline growth next year – considerably better than its European comparators and the sluggish UK fixed market. The outlook for the UK mobile industry is the best it has been in a decade, with significant growth in data demand, price increases, some supply constraints, rational competition, and major regulatory drags rapidly fading.          
  • May 14, 2018

    Video viewing forecasts to 2027: continued divergence by age grou [...]

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    Our latest forecasts predict traditional broadcasters will account for 72% of all video viewing in 2027, down from an estimated 82% in 2017, reflecting the continuing adoption of online video services across all UK age groups. Additional viewing of online short-form content such as YouTube will keep pushing overall volumes higher, with SVOD services serving more as a substitution for linear TV. The extent will be greater among younger age groups, for whom the shift has already been significant. We predict that in 10 years just 42% of 16-34s’ total viewing will be to conventional broadcasters versus 91% for the over-55s.      
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  • May 8, 2018

    Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell raise regulatory hackles

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    The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) halted the merger of the publishing assets of Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell, and is inquiring into the merger’s likely impact on competition in the national newspaper market. The CMA will take into account efficiencies of £20 million in newsrooms, printing and advertising sales, which if realised could help sustain national news provision in a failing print market transitioning to digital services. Secretary of State (SoS) Matt Hancock has issued a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) citing newspaper public interest (PI) grounds, on concerns the TM/N&S merger may be contrary to the public interest
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  • April 12, 2018

    TV set viewing trends: ‘Unmatched’ viewing growth and cha [...]

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    Despite the continued decline of linear TV set viewing through 2017 (-4%) and the first 12 weeks of 2018 (-3%), overall TV set usage remains flat at 4 hours/day due to the continued rise of unmatched activities (+19% in both cases). We consider the recent growth of unmatched use to be predominantly due to viewing of online-only services (i.e. Netflix, Amazon and YouTube), since time spent gaming is unlikely to have changed dramatically. The increase in unmatched usage since 2014 exceeds the total viewing to the most-watched broadcast channels for all age groups under 35. Within the shrinking pie of consolidated TV set viewing, market shares remain broadly flat. However, several key digital channels have shown surprising signs of recent decline, reflecting stalling growth from the multichannel long tail versus the main PSB channels.
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  • March 26, 2018

    Time Inc. UK magazine portfolio

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    At the end of January 2018, the acquisition of Time Inc. by rivals Meredith Corporation closed for $2.8bn. Time Inc. had already been in the process of selling its UK arm, which completed on March 19 to private equity fund Epiris LLP for an estimated £130m. The Time Inc. UK portfolio is a reasonably diverse one, with the following categories: Entertainment, Fashion & Beauty, Home & Design, Sport & Fitness and Specialist. Within the consumer magazine sector as a whole, oversupply remains the core issue, and we expect to see further closures of weaker titles benefiting category-leading brands.
  • March 26, 2018

    UK – ITV FY 2017 results: glass half full?

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    In her first results appearance as the new CEO of ITV, Dame Carolyn McCall announced a fairly good full year performance in the face of 2017’s tough ad market, with NAR and Group EBITA both down 5%. The main announcement was the start of a strategic refresh. For now, this is light on detail, but with more to come at the H1 interims. The bottom line is to improve all areas of the business through greater use of data. Under the looming threat of tech giants, increased calls for collaboration—with content producers, advertisers, and other broadcasters and platforms—could spur more tangible opportunities for significant growth in the UK public service broadcasting system.
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  • March 2, 2018

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q4 2017

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    UK residential communications market revenue growth fell again to 1.2%, with weakening ARPU growth the main driver. New customer pricing remains flat to down, and existing customers are being increasingly discounted, fuelling the ARPU weakness. High speed broadband adoption is proceeding apace, but the high speed premium is fairly thin, muting the impact on ARPU. Regulated wholesale price cuts from Openreach finalised today and due in April 2018 will not help. Looking forward, the March quarter will benefit from price timing effects at BT and Virgin Media, but we fear that the rest of 2018 will follow the current downward trend and the operators will need to adjust to an ex-growth environment.
  • February 26, 2018

    Virgin Media Q4 2017 results: Growth limited by market pressures

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    Virgin Media’s Q4 performance was a little softer than expected, with subscriber figures quite weak and no improvement in ARPU growth despite a better implementation of its annual price rise. The cause is however likely market-driven, with broadband demand slowing and all operators struggling for ARPU growth, and Virgin Media does now lead the market for subscriber, RGU and revenue growth.The prospects for 2018 are solid if not spectacular, with Project Lightning driving market share gains and ARPU defended by a network speed advantage that will last for many years yet.
  • February 13, 2018

    Trinity Mirror boards consolidation Express

    Trinity Mirror’s proposed acquisition of Northern & Shell’s newspapers (Express and Star) and magazines reflects a hunger for consolidation among corporate media, creating scale positions while entrepreneurs step back. The deal makes strategic sense for Trinity Mirror, with material cost savings in printing and back office, and some scale benefits in advertising: important developments if the industry is to generate a differentiated digital offering. DCMS’s announcement of a review to sustain quality national and local news provision sets some welcome mood music for the sector, but the Trinity Mirror acquisition may still face regulatory hurdles
  • February 13, 2018

    Premier League auction: not ripe for GAFAN disruption

    The overall scale of the GAFAN digital media giants may be huge, but the cost of becoming a major player in Premier League (PL) football remains utterly disproportionate to the current scale and ambitions of their video businesses in the UK. Furthermore, the main package PL rights are live-only, UK-only, and of limited breadth of appeal, making a poor strategic fit for any of the digital players. The cheaper minor packages, near-live and clips rights may be a better fit, but bidding on these will not move the needle in terms of the £1.7 billion per year main PL auction rights costs.
  • February 5, 2018

    CMA issues provisional findings in Fox-Sky

    The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Fox’s acquisition of Sky is against the public interest on media plurality grounds, although it could proceed with an appropriate remedy. The CMA found the merger would give the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members “too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”. The CMA now enters the challenging remedies phase. Fox could offer an Editorial Board for Sky News pending finalisation of Disney-Fox (by 2019). Third parties seem likely to continue to seek to prohibit the merger
  • January 16, 2018

    Stitch Fix IPO: profits are back in style

    Subscription fashion retailer Stitch Fix has gone public, revealing a rare example of a new, private, technology-based company capable of making a profit. Stitch Fix relies on the ‘mixed intelligence’ of algorithms and human stylists to offer its customers a curated fashion “Fix” of clothing and accessories, aiming to cut through some of the chaos of ecommerce. Though Stitch Fix’s success is not guaranteed, there is much to be learned from its approach of focusing on building a solid business and generating positive earnings early, rather than growing users at any cost
  • January 10, 2018

    Premier League auction developments: more is less

    BT and Sky’s content cross-wholesaling deal much reduces their risks of losing packages in the upcoming Premier League auction, with most of the strategic platform value of exclusive sports rights now wiped out. The PL auction structure offers more games but less value, with the two smaller packages particularly unattractive, which cleverly nudges BT to retain a more expensive package, and thus most of its spending, if it wishes to downsize. While demand from all potential rights buyers appears weak, paying less money to retain the same position will be challenging for the incumbents Sky and BT given high minimum package prices, with courage necessary to force these minimums to be reassessed
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  • December 21, 2017

    Recruitment classified marketplace: Tech giants eye up LinkedIn [...]

    A strong UK labour market, with record low unemployment but historically high vacancies, has supported growth in the recruitment industry, though trends may be peaking as we reach unknown territory. These trends play out in the recruitment market before they become apparent in the labour market.Despite the fragmentation of the online recruitment listings marketplace, Indeed is well-placed to dominate this space due to its increased scale and aggressive investment strategy. Both Google and Facebook have announced their intention to move into the recruitment listings sphere, which may have consequences not only for classified expenditure but further up the value chain with the agency model. However, both giants have attempted to move into online classifieds before, with little demonstrable success.