YouTube, Netflix, and IPTV hitting pay TV subscriber base

The Malta Communications Authority has reported a stronger take-up of faster broadband subscriptions, citing the attraction of TV streaming services as the main reason

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Matthew Vella
21 June 2017, 10:00am
A 1.1% hit to the pay TV sector was the result of online video streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Skype and IPTV, the MCA said
A 1.1% hit to the pay TV sector was the result of online video streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Skype and IPTV, the MCA said
The Malta Communications Authority has reported a stronger take-up of faster broadband subscriptions, citing the attraction of TV streaming services as the main reason.

The pay TV sector that is held by telcos GO and Melita has seen its subscriber base shrink by 1.1% year-on-year, from 149,378 subscriptions at the end of 2015 to 147,756 subscriptions at the end of the current reporting period.

“One common explanation to this trend is the rise in the popularity of online video streaming services, like YouTube, Netflix, Skype and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV),” the MCA said in its market review for July-December 2016.

The MCA does not have the actual figures as to the number of people actively using these services. “However, surveys carried out regularly by the MCA indicate a consistent rise in take-up of such services.”

Another important trend concerning the pay TV sector is the rising proportion of end-users purchasing their pay TV service in a bundle.

The proportion of pay TV subscriptions purchased in a bundle went up by 4.4 percentage points between 2015 and 2016, from 56.0% to 60.4%.

“These latest changes in take-up of pay TV weighed significantly on the sector’s revenue side, as evidenced by the year-on-year decline in average revenue per user (ARPU), reported by local service providers,” the MCA said.

Fixed broadband subscriptions supporting download speeds of 30Mbps or higher now represent 59.4% of the local fixed broadband subscriber base. Take-up of fixed broadband in a bundle remained very popular in 2016, with the proportion of such subscriptions rising from 72.7% at the end of 2015 to 78.7% at the end of last year. 

The increasing number of fixed broadband connections on super-fast download speeds enabled local service providers to improve ARPU by almost 10.0%, from €181.45 in 2015 to €199.45 in 2016.

“This increase in ARPU happened at a time when the average price per Mbit was down by 26.3% year-on-year. The falling take-up of pay TV contrasts with the positive developments in take-up reported for other electronic communications services,” the MCA said.

2016 experienced a continued increase in uptake for fixed and mobile telephony services, alongside stronger demand for fixed and mobile data services. Only the pay TV sector went against this trend, as the sector witnessed a decline in take-up. 

Mobile telephony consolidated its position as the most commonly used form of voice communication in Malta, with 807.6 million voice call minutes registered in 2016, representing a 4.7% increase in traffic volumes over the previous year.

This contrasts sharply with developments for the fixed telephony sector, where voice minute traffic volumes dipped by 7.7% year-on-year. Notwithstanding the decline in traffic volumes, the fixed telephony subscriber base strengthened year-on-year, with 4,157 more subscriptions reported at the end of the reporting period.

“This shows that people still value having a fixed line connection at home or at their business premises, even though their usage of the service is falling,” the MCA said.

The mobile sector also registered an upward trend in take up, with the number of subscriptions going up by 6.3% year-on-year to reach 592,923 by the end of 2016. 

“Whilst the on-going growth in the mobile telephony subscriber base partly reflects the trend of end-users purchasing multiple connections instead of switching, changing consumer preferences (particularly in the use of mobile data services) contribute significantly to the increase.

“Meanwhile, improved minute allowances and falling average rates per minute of communication contribute to the increase in mobile voice traffic volumes.”

The positive developments for the mobile sector did not however translate in improved revenue streams on a per user level for local service providers. In fact, mobile telephony ARPU in 2016 stood at €177.38, down by 2.2% from €181.37 in 2015.

The fixed telephony sector registered a bigger drop in ARPU, with this indicator sliding by 5.7% from €151.46 in 2015 to €142.77 in 2016. The main factor explaining the drop in fixed line telephony ARPU is the significant decline reported in terms of voice traffic volumes.

Another important trend concerns the changing consumer preferences in view of mobile data usage levels. It is of note that the number of end-users actively using mobile broadband services was up by almost 39,000 (or by 14.4%) between December 2015 and December 2016. This increase coincides with the rising popularity of mobile applications, social networking and other online activities, which all contribute to a stronger take-up of mobile data plans.

“There have also been instances where service providers offered more generous data allowances, enticing end-users to make higher use of mobile broadband data services,” the MCA said.

Take-up of fixed broadband strengthened in 2016, with 8,088 new customers added to the local subscriber base. This increase in take-up pushed up the fixed broadband penetration rate to 39.0% by the end of 2016, compared to 37.6% a year earlier.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.