Sky yesterday said it was “in good shape” ahead of the imminent Premier League rights auction as it posted better-than-expected half-year results revealing that it had signed up subscribers at the strongest pace in nine years.
The satellite broadcaster, which has just won the live rights to show the Open Championship, said adjusted operating profit for the six months to the end of December was up 16 per cent to £675 million.
In the UK and Ireland it added 204,000 new customers over the last three months of 2014, the highest rate of growth since 2005.
Chief executive Jeremy Darroch hailed the results as “an excellent operational and financial performance”.
Sky is preparing for the looming Premier League rights auction when it is expected to go head to head with BT in a multi-billion pound battle to screen top-flight English football.
Darroch said: “Our experience with pretty much every right is that it is always pretty competitive. We like Premier League football, of course, but actually the whole of Sky is much broader these days.
“We are in good shape as we go into that auction, but it is only one part of what we do.”
BT is already in the middle of a three-year deal to show 38 games a season and there is anticipation that it may try to elbow Sky aside for a greater share of the turf for the next set of rights.
Sky, which competes with the telecoms giant for broadband and telephone customers as well as TV, says it is the biggest “triple-play” operator, with around 40 per cent of its customers taking all three.
It added more than a million paid-for products in the most recent quarter, 17 per cent higher than the same period a year before and the best growth in four years.
Within this, TV growth more than doubled to 202,000 and broadband added 106,000, Sky said. Sky now has 11.75 million retail customers in the UK and Ireland.
The company has recently changed its name from BSkyB after acquiring Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland.
Darroch said both businesses had a strong quarter, with Germany posting highest-ever customer growth and Italy “showing resilience with good customer growth in a challenging environment”.
For the wider group, adjusted revenue for the half-year was up 5 per cent to £5.6 billion and Sky announced an interim dividend up 3 per cent to 12.3p. It is also moving into the mobile phone market after unveiling a mobile phone tie-up with O2 operator Telefonica UK last week, beefing up its offering to enable it to provide “quad play” for customers.
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