O2 delivering well on many, but not all, fronts
O2’s Q4 results delivered market-leading service revenue growth of 3%, double-digit EBITDA growth, sustained strong net adds and low churn.
With ARPU service revenue growth flat, all of the growth came from other service revenue including M2M (machine-to-machine) and MVNO; a lumpy category up by more than 40%.
Following a period of strong outperformance, O2 will face some challenges in 2019: some cost inflation to mitigate and the risk of a churn increase following December’s outage although experience suggests this is likely to be short-lived.
|Media, Telecoms||27 February 2019|
The price is right for national newspapers
The average cover price of national newspapers has risen by 58% since 2010, more than twice the CPI increase of 22%. Are publishers “shooting themselves in the foot” at a time when buyers and advertisers are defecting to online?
To settle this, we analysed all the cover price events by national titles between 2010 and 2018, which reveals the relative success of The Times when it has raised its price.
For mid-market and popular titles, cover price hikes have on balance reduced circulation revenues and, by lowering reach, drained advertising revenue: a lose-lose scenario.
|Media, UK Media||25 February 2019|
BT Global Services: Playing a bad hand as well as it can
BTGS’s strategic plan seems like a sensible move in a very challenging market but it heralds its transition to a new operating model where its competitive advantage is largely eroded, its addressable market squeezed and it is arguably sub-scale
Although hybrid infrastructure and revenues from transition to cloud-based IT will provide something of a cushion, guidance and consensus forecasts are too optimistic in our view – cost-cutting plans are therefore likely deficient
Longer term, with IT services increasingly easy for corporates to manage themselves, diminished appetite for hybrid networks and global giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google squeezing out the middle-man, the space that BTGS occupies is likely to be considerably smaller
|Media, Telecoms||19 February 2019|
Time to create an addressable TV market
Addressable linear TV advertising, where precision-targeted ads overlay default linear ads, could enhance the TV proposition for advertisers, agencies and viewers, benefiting all broadcasters
In the context of dwindling linear viewing and rocketing online video ad spends, the adoption of Sky AdSmart and similar services on YouView and Freeview could take addressable TV ads from a sideshow to a pillar of revenue
Addressable linear is a bigger and more strategic prize for broadcasters than BVOD ads. Sky holds the key to wider adoption of its AdSmart platform if it can find a way – or a price – to bring ITV Sales and/or 4 Sales on board
|Media, TV||18 February 2019|
Free TV Licences for over-75s
The BBC’s consultation on rescinding free TV licences for all those aged 75 and over, in whole or in part, has sparked a heartfelt petition from key stakeholder Age UK to restore Government funding for the elderly, which we support
The Government has put the BBC in the intolerable position of choosing between funding the remit, whose delivery is regulated by Ofcom, and free TV licences for the over-75s, a lose-lose for the BBC, its viewers and listeners
In our submission to the BBC we highlight the human impact of reduced services and/or higher monthly expenses on the 2 million single-income households, 75% headed by women, for whom the BBC is a lifeline
|Media, TV, UK Media||15 February 2019|
European Pay-TV - Resilient In The Face Of SVOD's Growth
Across the EU4, pay-TV is proving resilient in the face of fast growing Netflix (with Amazon trailing), confirming the catalysts of cord-cutting in the US are not present on this side of the Atlantic. Domestic SVOD has little traction so far.
France's pay-TV market seems likely to see consolidation. Meanwhile, Germany's OTT sector is ebullient, with incumbents bringing an array of new or enhanced offers to market.
Italy has been left with a sole major pay-TV platform—Sky—following Mediaset's withdrawal, while Spain's providers, by and large, are enjoying continued growth in subscriptions driven by converged bundles and discounts.
|Media, Telecoms, TV||14 February 2019|
BT Q3 2018/19 results: Openreach stronger than it looks, but Consumer slowing
BT’s Q3 results were a little mixed, with mobile particularly weak, but the company remains on track to meet/exceed its (fairly conservative) guidance for the current year, and hit (modest) consensus expectations for 2019/20
Openreach was very weak at the headline level (-9%), but stripping out an accounting effect and internal revenue the division grew by 2% by our estimates despite significant price cuts, and full fibre roll-out is progressing well
While Openreach should accelerate this year, Consumer will be hit by a price rise holiday and slowing mobile, with investors likely having to wait for existing sports rights contracts to play out to see significant profitability improvement
|Media, Telecoms||12 February 2019|
Cairncross: platforms intervention to save news
The Cairncross Review has now reported on the tough question of “how to sustain production and distribution of high quality journalism in a rapidly changing technology environment”. New codes of conduct for the platforms and publishers are the Review’s key policy recommendation.
In particular, the Review addresses the sustainability of public interest, including local, journalism. This news is important for democracy, but expensive to do well, not particularly popular and most sabotaged by an online ecosystem that rewards traffic over quality.
This is a landmark public intervention, but implementation will be critical, even if there is no silver bullet – platforms, publishers and citizens need to rise to the challenge.
|Internet, Media, Technology, UK Media||12 February 2019|
In the midst of the Brexit news morass, here are some framing thoughts for the bigger picture…and why all roads lead to no-deal, after the Commons’ rejection of the package of the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future trade relations between the EU and UK.
|Brexit, Media, Telecoms||8 February 2019|
Wobbles ahead for TalkTalk's fine balancing act
TalkTalk is delivering on its subscriber and revenue growth targets but is straining to get there. Price rises such as a £4 ‘TV access fee’ look increasingly risky
Whilst migrating to discounted high-speed helps to deliver top-line growth, margins are c. 40% lower; an unwelcome dent to already negative cashflow and stressed leverage
Both TalkTalk’s focus on revenue growth in a tight market and fibre rollout plans look increasingly unaffordable; a more modest ambition of stable revenues might allow a healthier business model to unfold
|Telecoms||8 February 2019|
TV set viewing trends: linear audiences tumble in 2018
2018 was another bad year for traditional TV set viewing of broadcast channels, with a 5% decline year-on-year—its steepest since 2011. The decline accelerated among most demographics, but particularly for 16-34s, down 13% YOY from their already relatively low levels of TV viewing
Unmatched use, which includes viewing to Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, continues to grow, up 16% YOY, with both linear viewing and unmatched use becoming increasingly solitary activities. While heavier linear TV viewers are accounting for a greater proportion of linear TV viewing, it is the lighter TV viewers that are accounting for a greater proportion of unmatched use
Within the broadcast ecosystem, ITV had the strongest 2018 thanks to the FIFA World Cup, more Coronation Street, and Love Island. Most other broadcasters struggled in terms of viewing share, but the maturity of the market means major shifts continue to be rare
|Media, TV, UK Media||7 February 2019|
Why does Amazon sell the Echo?
Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home accelerated their prodigious rate of adoption in Q4 2018, and we expect they will soon be in 20% of UK homes
Amazon and Google price devices low to drive adoption to mass-market levels and win the race to own the home, in contrast to Apple’s profit-making strategy for its speaker
Echo’s main strategic benefits to Amazon are the scope for data collection and the intelligence it supports, and gatekeeping partners’ access to customers
|Internet, Media, Technology, TV||4 February 2019|
Retail news update for January 2019
The volume of retail sales (excluding fuel) rose 2.6% for the year 2018, thanks to improved consumer sentiment on the back of the Royal Wedding, FIFA World Cup and warmer weather. With no special events in 2019, the environment for retailing will be bleaker, with or without no-deal Brexit
December retail sales volumes rose 1.7% year-on-year, less than half the pace of November, as consumers shifted spend to Black Friday/Cyber Monday. We predict the trend will amplify in 2019, as consumers increasingly target their spending on discounted products, with direct implications for the timing and nature of advertising
The value of retail sales (excluding fuel) was up 4% in 2018 as a whole, masking the tale of woe on the high street. Offline sales fell 1%, while online sales boomed, growing 14% in value, a structural trend for 2019
|Media, Telecoms||30 January 2019|
Sky Q4 2018 results: accelerating growth
Sky’s revenue growth under Comcast appears to have accelerated since it last reported as an independent company, largely driven by sports rights expansion in Italy, which also drove bumper subscriber growth in Q3 2018
Sky UK likely enjoyed a steadier performance, helped by accelerating high speed adoption, a price rise in April, increased international sales, and improving premium channel adoption on third-party platforms
Comcast expects continued acceleration into 2019, with profitability taking a hit from increased sports rights in Italy in H1, but this is more than compensated for by reduced English Premier League rights costs in H2
|Media, Telecoms, TV||30 January 2019|
Netflix's local content push
With the UK perhaps Netflix’s most valuable market outside the US—home to a stellar production sector—the streaming service is escalating its foray into local production, opening a content hub in London and moving from co-productions to direct commissions
As UK content completely dominates UK video viewing outside of the SVODs, to expand subscription reach Netflix is endeavouring to become an alternative to the PSBs’ entertainment output; this local spend is efficient given the universality and worldwide appetite for British content
With a growing proportion of local content expenditure now coming from Netflix and other SVODs, there are ramifications for both broadcasters and producers—loss of viewing, potential market pressure, increased competition for premium content and hesitancy around their own SVOD plans—along with implications for the cultural landscape
|Media, Telecoms, TV||29 January 2019|
Grappling for green shoots at Vodafone
Vodafone’s revenue trends took another step backwards this quarter (down almost 3% on our estimates) with its strongest markets (UK and Germany) weakening unexpectedly
The reiteration of their financial guidance and commitment to cost-reduction provides some reassurance although nothing in the results provides grounds for optimism; churn is not really falling and is not correlated to convergence
With the UK mobile market delivering its strongest growth in 7 years last quarter, these results may be a precursor for a more challenging outlook with Vodafone citing pressure from business pricing and out-of-bundle limits, and the outlook for RPI-linked price increases diminishing
|Media, Telecoms||28 January 2019|
UK advertising spend - Brexit year forecasts
Our central case forecast with orderly EU withdrawal predicts 2.7% growth for total UK advertising spend, down from 4.7% in 2018. We have a no-deal Brexit scenario that predicts a smaller advertising recession than in 2009, with total ad spend declining 3% and display down 5.3% in 2019
The total advertising figures partly mask the pressure on UK consumers, through an expansion of the measured advertising spend universe. This is due to significant self-serve online advertising growth by SMEs, and non-advertising marketing budgets moving to online advertising platforms
In a downturn, we’d expect advertisers to become more tactical, which would disproportionally affect display media including TV, which is further affected by declining commercial impacts among younger adults. Search and social advertising would see only small growth through the first year of a recession
|Media, Technology, TV||14 January 2019|
Apple and Amazon bury the hatchet
Amazon’s recent deals with Apple in TV, music and device sales mark a turning point after a decade of frosty relations
The context for this involves shifting priorities at both firms, growing pressure on Apple’s iPhone business, and rivals in common — first and foremost Google, but also the likes of Netflix and Spotify
The uneasy alliance helps both companies consolidate their strengths in the platform competition over media and the connected home — but trouble already brews
|Media, Mobile, Technology||10 January 2019|
Scandinavian video: Slow TV but swift evolution
The Scandinavian markets sit at the cutting edge of the TV industry’s evolution—a product of tech-savvy citizens, superb connectivity, and generally high incomes
Take-up of SVOD is high, yet while this has had a pronounced effect on viewing, pay-TV subscription numbers have proved surprisingly resilient
Traditionally dominant public service broadcasters are under greater financial and political pressures, with the licence fee scrapped in both Denmark and Sweden
|Non-UK Media, Media, TV||8 January 2019|
UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q3 2018 - ARPU showing signs of life
Broadband market volume growth resumed its downward trend in the September quarter after a blip in the previous quarter that was likely caused by a wholesale transfer distorting the figures. Revenue growth, however, perked up to 1.9% from 1.7% in the previous quarter, an encouraging recovery especially given that it was not primarily driven by the timing of a price increase
ARPU growth improved across all four of the major operators, countering recent trends, with a focus on higher value offerings a common theme. High speed broadband adoption accelerated in the quarter across most operators, encouraged by Openreach’s volume discount offer, although this was partially driven by keener high speed pricing
Revenue growth at Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk converged at around 3%, with BT Consumer lagging at -1%. However, excluding the effect of BT’s shrinking telephony-only base and smoothing the sporadic boost of its 9-monthly price rise, BT Consumer’s revenue is in the middle of the pack at 3.0%
|Media, Telecoms||19 December 2018|