STRONG demand for televised football and fibre-optic broadband have given BT a boost in its bid to lure armchair sport fans away from rival Sky.
The telecoms group, which moved into football coverage last year in a £738 million deal with the English Premier League, is also gearing up for a return to the consumer mobile phone market, following last month’s launch of a business service.
Chief executive Gavin Patterson said the group had made a “good start” to the year, with adjusted pre-tax profits up 7 per cent to £638m for the three months to 30 June.
Underlying revenues edged up 0.5 per cent to £4.4 billion, in line with City forecasts, as the take-up of BT Sport helped broadband and television sales surge 26 per cent.
Patterson, the former head of BT’s retail arm, took charge of the group last year when previous boss Lord Livingston left to take up the post of minister for trade and investment.
As well as winning more fibre broadband customers, Patterson, pictured below, said BT’s sport service had enjoyed “a strong quarter, with continued growth in the residential subscriber base”. It also has more than 19,000 pubs, clubs, hotels and other commercial premises signed up to the package.
The group is about to begin its second season of sports coverage, muscling in on Sky’s dominance of top-flight football. The group has also paid £897m for a three-year Champions League deal from 2015. The sport offering helped the former state-owned monopoly grow first-quarter revenues at its consumer division by 10 per cent to £1bn.
Patterson said: “The second season of BT Sport is about to start with a great line-up of content and it will continue to be free with BT Broadband. We are building on solid foundations and I am confident we will deliver on our strategy.”
Sky last week posted a 5.3 per cent decline in annual adjusted operating profits to £1.3bn as increased spending on technology and higher Premier League costs offset a 7 per cent rise in turnover to £7.6bn.
BT added 104,000 new broadband customers in the three months to the end of June, well ahead of the 50,000 added by Sky, and it now has more than 2.3 million customers on its fibre network.
However, growth in customers for its own television platform slowed to 40,000 – not including 35,000 inactive set-top box users who were removed from the numbers.
This marked the third quarter in a row that growth has been falling, although the number is better than the 23,000 recorded in the same period last year.
Last month, BT took its first big step back into the mobile phone market as it launched a new business service aimed at delivering fixed line and mobile calls to the same handset. It plans to launch a mobile offering for the wider public by the end of the financial year. The group is scheduled to publish its half-year results on 30 October.