Sky profits hit by rising English Premier League bill

Higher costs for screening English Premier League games dragged on Sky's profits. Picture: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Higher costs for screening English Premier League games dragged on Sky's profits. Picture: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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Sky has said rising costs from screening English Premier League football and a “weaker UK advertising market” has dragged on profits.

The broadcaster saw an 11 per cent drop in operating profit to £1.01 billion in the nine months to 31 March as it pointed to a £494 million bill linked to Premier League costs.

• READ MORE: 21st Century Fox agrees formal £11.7bn bid for Sky

On a statutory basis, operating profit fell from £802m a year earlier to £703m.

But chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “We enter the final quarter of our fiscal year in good shape. Despite the broader consumer environment remaining uncertain, we continue to deliver on our strategy and are on track for the full year.”

Revenue rose by 5 per cent to £9.6bn during the period, with more than 100,000 new customers joining Sky in the third quarter.

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Sky also announced a $250m (£195m) partnership with American production company HBO. The partnership will bring together the Game Of Thrones broadcaster and producer, and aims to bring more “world-class drama series” to customers.

Sky is the subject of an £11.7bn takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

Fox is aiming to seize control of the 61 per cent of Sky it does not already own and the bid comes five years after Murdoch’s last tilt at taking the business over through News Corporation.

The deal already has the green light from EU regulators, but Ofcom and the Competition & Markets Authority have until 16 May to investigate. Ofcom, the communications watchdog, is charged with determining whether Fox would be a “fit and proper” owner of Sky.

News from the US that controversial Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has been dropped by the network, following allegations of sexual harassment, could have implications for the Sky deal being rubber-stamped in the UK.

But campaign group Avaaz said that it is “not safe” for the Murdochs to be given more control of the media in light of the O’Reilly scandal.

Senior campaigner Alaphia Zoyab said: “We want to ensure that Ofcom is under no illusion that removing Bill O’Reilly addresses the massive misgovernance issues at Fox News.”

It has been reported that 21st Century Fox has paid out more than £10m to settle allegations relating to inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment.

Avaaz, which has made several submissions to Ofcom, also pointed to the phone-hacking scandal involving News International – which effectively derailed Murdoch’s previous bid for full control of Sky – as another example of why the deal should not be approved.

Investors have also raised concerns about the involvement of the tycoon’s son, James Murdoch, who is Sky’s chairman and Fox’s chief executive.

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