Monday 18 December 2017

Ignoring these stats from Comreg hobbles your media plan

Despite broadband providers building new and upgraded networks, the number of broadband subscriptions fell by 0.04pc in the last 12 months
Despite broadband providers building new and upgraded networks, the number of broadband subscriptions fell by 0.04pc in the last 12 months
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Think you know about media? If you ignore Comreg's quarterly reports, you're missing key metrics. And they happen to be ones that are responsible for cutting large chunks out of Ireland's media, marketing and advertising business.

There was a time when figures about mobile data, 4G penetration and online services were primarily a telecoms concern. Today, they are probably more relevant to the media and marketing business.

It is certainly hard to see how one can have an informed view of where media is going without knowing what's happening with phone and connectivity trends.

In that context, here are the three points from Comreg's new report that have not been adequately considered.

1 Retail revenues for broadcasters fell by 7.1pc in the last 12 months, while the total number of TV homes decreased by 0.6pc in just three months.

I've been writing for a while that the Irish TV industry, together with local marketing and ad agencies, have not been acknowledging the shift in conventional television viewing under way in this country.

For various reasons, they seem reluctant to admit that people are relying less and less on their living rooms for their telly and more and more on their mobiles and their on-demand services.

In one sense, this is understandable - what's unfolding is very disruptive to existing ad revenue routes. But the figures are now starting to mount up to something beyond plausible deniability.

Comreg's statistics show that TV broadcasters took in €39.1m in retail revenue in the last three months of 2015, compared to €42.1m for the same period 12 months before and €45m two years before that.

(The figures do not include Sky, which does not provide numbers to Comreg's industry measurement system.)

This is only one small part of the story.

Recent figures from Ireland's Television Audience Measurement bureau show that the number of ads people see on conventional TV broadcasts has fallen by up to 30pc in the last two years.

Other indices back this up, with survey after survey showing a diversification of television viewing to a combination of mobile devices and on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix.

2 Ireland is now the cheapest country in Europe to have a prepaid smartphone account, third-cheapest for a postpaid subscription

According to Comreg, an average prepaid account in Ireland now costs €7.86 per month, 44pc cheaper than the European norm. With 4G now rolled out in almost all areas of urban and densely populated areas, that means people are turning more to their phones to consume video content. This is backed up by further figures from the regulator, showing a 60pc jump in data used on Irish phones to bring the average to 2.1GB per month.

For advertisers, this is a conservative figure to factor in, as a large number of people will be using far more than 2GB per month. (The standard postpaid data allocation is now between 5GB and 15GB per month.)

What are people using with the data? Messaging, video and social media. The number of texts sent in Ireland was down 15pc year on year, while the number of multimedia phone messages was down 6.4pc.

Irish people are gradually replacing their SMS and MMS communications with free messaging apps. Meanwhile, 75pc of the 2.5 million Irish people on Facebook use it every day, with most visiting it on a smartphone.

3 The overall number of broadband subscriptions in Ireland has fallen for the first time

Despite broadband providers building new and upgraded networks, the number of broadband subscriptions fell by 0.04pc in the last 12 months. This year alone, it is down 0.2pc.

This may seem to go against the flow of a data switchover, but it rhymes with other trends when you look a little deeper. The biggest contributor to the drop-off in broadband figures is the continuing collapse (11.4pc in the last year) in 'dongle'-based mobile broadband subscriptions for laptops.

This is happening as people realise that they can either use their own smartphones as a 'personal hotspot' to connect a laptop or just rely on the five-inch handset in place of the laptop. After all, the Comreg figures also show that subscriptions to mobile packages with 3G or 4G data rose by 23pc in the last year.

Over a quarter of mobile subscriptions in Ireland are now on 4G connections, with top speeds of 30MBs. Why bother with a laptop dongle? Or, indeed, a laptop?

Underlying consumer phone trends may not be as jazzy as some marketing presentations. But ignore these critical statistics at your peril.

Sunday Indo Business

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