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A Big Pay TV Merger Moves Forward

Fox’s planned purchase of Sky is part of a global consolidation

December 16, 2016 | Media & Entertainment

21st Century Fox finalized its deal to acquire Sky, the largest pay TV service in Europe, the latest combination in a global wave of consolidation in the TV industry, which is responding to rapid changes in the way that consumers watch video programming.

Pay TV Revenues in Western Europe, 2015 & 2021 (billions and % change)

From the perspective of overall market growth, the pay TV sector hardly seems like the most attractive investment, with many researchers foreseeing slim growth in users or revenues this decade.

Ovum estimates that pay TV revenues for the region as a whole will grow only 12% from 2015 to 2021—a mere 1.88% compound annual growth rate.

Data from other researchers paints a similar picture. According to a report from Digital TV Research Limited, the total number of pay TV subscriptions in Western Europe will barely edge higher in coming years, reaching 175.2 million in 2021, up from 172.2 million in 2016—a compound annual growth rate of less than 1%.

Pyramid Research says that pay TV penetration at the household level will grow to 60.2% in Western Europe this year, up from 58.6% in 2015.

Whatever the growth of pay TV, overall video consumption is growing rapidly, and Sky is a key provider of a particularly compelling content format—sports. “Despite the fact that pay TV subscriptions are dwindling, the Sky acquisition makes sense since pay subscribers are willing to pay for sports and entertainment content that is unavailable elsewhere,” said eMarketer analyst Gerard Broussard.

That highly compelling content is valuable however consumers end up viewing it—whether OTT or some other digital format, and whether it is monetized via advertising or subscription payments.

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