BSkyB needs 150,000 ITV customers to recoup £70m

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SATELLITE broadcaster BSkyB must pull in 150,000 of failed rival ITV Digital’s premium subscribers to recoup the drop-off in revenue caused by the company’s recent collapse.

Analysts have estimated Britain’s leading satellite TV group must secure the top-paying ITV Digital customers to counter the loss of an estimated 70 million a year from lost advertising and cancelled programme sales from the Carlton/Granada venture.

Debt-ridden cable TV group NTL is also keen to snap up former ITV Digital customers as it also battles to stay in business.

Merrill Lynch analyst Neil Blackley said: "We see BSkyB picking up some of ITV Digital’s premium customers which should partly offset the effect."

ITV Digital collapsed after it failed to meet contractual obligations and faces a court battle to settle compensation claims from English football clubs after it failed to honour payments to them.

The 800m joint venture was set up in 1999 as a terrestrial digital platform. Its failure has also cost more than 1500 jobs.

The service filed for protection from creditors in March, having failed to catch BSkyB, which had about five times ITV Digital’s 1.26 million total subscribers.

Last week, BSkyB, which recently announced record losses of 1.26 billion, said it would take a charge of about 22m in the third quarter for the loss of programming revenue from ITV Digital.

Most analysts agree that the loss of a rival will benefit BSkyB, but they add that NTL and Telewest, which is also axing 1500 jobs to boost survival prospects, will put up some fierce competition for ITV Digital’s former subscribers.