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This report examines the reported content expenditure of 21 pay-TV operators between 2014 and 2017 and compares these costs with other relevant metrics including total opex, pay-TV revenue, and average video revenue per subscription.


  • Content spend is growing faster than pay-TV and video revenue. With most operators struggling to grow their subscription bases – particularly in mature markets – and video ARPU levels under increasing pressure, pay-TV revenue growth is struggling to keep up with the rising cost of content.
  • Content investment levels are rising steadily for the majority of operators. The costs associated with acquiring video content for pay-TV distribution have risen consistently for several years.
  • Programming costs are eating into overall opex budgets. Growth in pay-TV programming costs is outpacing that of overall operating expenses, with content representing the single largest opex item for several pay-TV distributors.

Features and Benefits

  • Details reported content spend for 21 pay-TV operators across multiple geographical territories.
  • Overviews content spend as a proportion of TV revenues and of total opex.
  • Examines content spend per video subscriber.
  • Analyzes growth in operators' content spend both in absolute terms and in relation to other key metrics.

Key questions answered

  • Which pay-TV distributors are the biggest spenders on video content?
  • What are the broad differences in content spend between different types of operator?
  • How does growth in content expenditure compare with growth in total opex?

Table of contents


  • In brief
  • Ovum view
  • Recommendations

Setting the scene

  • Fundamental factors behind rising content spend levels

Expense levels reflect a player's market positioning and business orientation

  • Content investment strategies vary by operator type

Content spend in context

  • Viewing content costs against other key metrics

How content spend levels are changing

  • Where does the big spenders' money go?
  • Absolute expenditure has grown steadily for most players


  • Methodology
  • Further reading
  • Author