BSkyB reports rapid customer pick-up

Image caption,
The strong figures may help chief executive Jeremy Darroch in negotiations with Rupert Murdoch

UK broadcaster BSkyB added 96,000 new customers in the three months to 30 September, leaving it just shy of 10 million in total.

Analysts had predicted an increase of only about 69,000 subscribers.

Total revenues were £1.53bn ($2.41bn), a 15% rise on a year ago, as customers took up a broader range of services.

"We have made a very good start to the year with... a record take-up of our additional subscription products," said chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

The company saw particularly fast customer growth for its broadband, telephony and line rental services, he said.

A total of 2.3 million customers now subscribed to all three services, up 39% on a year ago, according to its quarterly report.

However, the growth in user numbers for high definition television was actually slower than a year ago - at 215,000 new subscribers - despite the BSkyB increasing its number of HD channels to 50.

The company is further broadening its product base, with on-demand television, a 3D television channel, live Masters Golf, and a new high definition channel showing popular US shows such as Mad Men.

The broadening uptake of the media company's product offering pushed the BSkyB's "average revenue per user" - an annualised measure - up to £514, from £469 a year ago

And it fed through into accelerating profits, with earnings per share up by a third to 9.7p, according to the company's preliminary estimates.

Takeover debate

BSkyB did not comment in its latest update on the takeover offer that has been made by its largest shareholder, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which wants to buy the remaining 61% of BSkyB it does not own.

In June, News Corp told the board of BSkyB that it was prepared to pay 700p a share to take full control of the leading satellite broadcaster.

But several rival media groups jointly wrote to Business Secretary Vince Cable earlier this month, urging him to block Mr Murdoch's move, which they say could reduce diversity in the industry.

The signatories include the heads of the BBC and Channel 4, as well as chief executives of newspaper groups, including the Telegraph, the Mail, the Guardian and the Mirror.

News Corp says it has not finalised its plans - and points out its critics are also commercial rivals.

BSkyB's directors said the offer was £1 per share too low, but agreed to resume negotiations after regulatory hurdles have been cleared.

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