Sky scores subscriber goal as demand rises

Audiences for Premier League games up 20 per cent on last year. Picture: Getty
Audiences for Premier League games up 20 per cent on last year. Picture: Getty
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Broadcaster BSkyB gained 800,000 new subscriptions over the summer, helping its first-quarter revenues grow 7 per cent to more than £1.8 billion.

The firm added 50 per cent more paid-for subscription products in the three months to September than it did last year.

Sky Broadband passed the five million customer mark, while the group signed up 111,000 net new broadband customers in the three-month period.

As was expected, operating profit was down 8 per cent at £285 million due to the higher cost of screening English Premier League football.

But chief executive Jeremy Darroch said it was “a very good start” to Sky’s financial year.

“We were particularly pleased with the continued strong performance in home communications,” he said. “Quarterly growth in broadband was up on last year taking us past the five-million customer milestone.

“In all, 36 per cent of customers now choose to take all three of TV, broadband and telephony from Sky, over half a million more than last year.

“On screen, we enjoyed a fantastic summer of sport with the excitement of the Ashes and the Lions tour followed by our best ever start to the football season.”

Audiences for the first 23 live Premier League games were up 20 per cent on last year – its best start to a football season – despite BT’s launch of its own live matches. An average 1.55 million sports fans watched each match, compared with 1.29 million at the start of last season.

Total viewing of sports channels was up almost 15 per cent on last year, including growth of more than 40 per cent in viewing through the group’s mobile TV service Sky Go.

The broadcaster also reported a four-fold increase in usage of its “On Demand” service, which allows subscribers to watch hit series such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead whenever they choose.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said Sky’s numbers were “impressive”.

“Operating profit showed a decline but for understandable reasons, namely the absorption of higher Premier League costs and ongoing reinvestment in the business,” he said.

“The looming spectre of BT also remains – whose entry into Sky’s traditional space will need to be monitored carefully – whilst the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm also present notable competition.

“Even so, over a third of the Sky customer base are now using the triple play offering of TV, broadband and telephony.

“This increasing penetration brings along the benefit of customer loyalty, as the ‘stickiness’ means consumers are less likely to move some or all of their business to rivals.”