By Barry Flynn, Contributing Editor
A new study from the CSA shows that catch-up TV in France is booming – but the regulator remains cautious about the prospects for future revenue growth.
According to the CSA’s figures, the total monthly number of programmes viewed in catch-up mode increased by half between 2013 and 2014, reaching 311m last year against 207m the year before. The last six months of 2014 witnessed the biggest surge, with a record 404m programme viewings notched up in November.
According to the CSA’s research, online TV continues to be dominated by catch-up. While the proportion of catch-up TV viewing dipped between 2011 and 2013 as live online views more than doubled their share from 6% to 14%, that trend went into reverse last year, with live viewing falling back to 9%. Thus four out of every five videos watched online in 2014 were viewed in catch-up mode.
The surge in catch-up TV has significantly increased the overall size of the online TV pie in France, says the CSA: 2014 saw a 40% increase in the annual number of videos watched online, against an increase of less than 2% the year before.
A larger proportion of Internet users are also catching the habit: 72% watched catch-up TV in 2014 against 69% the year before.
These online TV viewers are moving away from PCs and laptops as preferred viewing screens, the CSA found – in favour of living-room TV sets and portable devices. On average, only four out of 10 online programmes were watched on a PC in 2014, compared with seven out of 10 in 2011.
TVs were responsible for 37% of total online video views last year, up from less than a quarter in 2011, and since August 2014 have actually accounted for more viewing than PCs and laptops.
But smartphone and tablet viewing of online TV has grown fastest, albeit from a smaller base. Their share has quadrupled since 2011, exceeding one in five video views during the course of 2014.
The expansion in catch-up TV viewing has led to a significant increase in revenues. The CSA estimates that the free-to-air catch-up TV market was worth in excess of €76m in 2013, more than double 2011’s figure of €36m. Most of this has come from advertising, where revenues have nearly tripled since 2011, from €19.7m to €55.3m. Licence fees from distributors have increased rather less, from €16m to €21m (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Revenue estimates for FTA catch-up TV in France, 2011-2013 (€m)
|Licence fees from distributors||16.0||21.5||21.0|
|Share of incumbent terrestrial channels||33.1||53.4||64.3|
While France’s incumbent terrestrial free-to-air channels retain the lion’s share of this income (84% in 2013), the new DTT entrants are slowly eroding that position, having more than doubled their share to 16% in 2013 from 7% two years before, increasing revenues from €2.6m to €11.9m over the period.
However, despite these positive indicators for France’s free-to-air catch-up TV market, the CSA remains equivocal about the prospects for continued ad revenue growth, describing the situation as “a modest windfall whose growth is uncertain.”
The regulator points out that revenues derived from catch-up TV services remain tiny in comparison to linear TV ad revenues, and their future growth could be hampered by a number of factors:
- Downward pressure on CPMs exerted by other online video platforms, particularly YouTube (the CSA estimates that the net CPM for an ‘in-stream’ pre-roll ad on a catch-up TV programme from a major channel currently lies between €15 and €20)
- The still sluggish state of the advertising market, characterised by poor visibility about advertisers’ spending plans and considerable instability
- Limited inventory
- The lack of a unified audience measurement metric
- The difficulties involved in monetising catch-up TV on IPTV
- Limited prospects for expanding distribution given the large number of catch-up TV services already present on the most important platforms (the CSA notes that all 25 DTT channels have catch-up TV services available over the open Internet, with another 21 free-to-air services available on IPTV networks managed by the likes of SFR, Free and Bouygues Telecom).