More people giving up satellite dishes

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THE NUMBER of people giving up their satellite TV dishes rose sharply in the months leading up to BSkyB's decision to charge for most of its channels, according to market research group GfK.

The 'churn' rate, which records numbers 'de-installing' their satellite dishes, had doubled in the period examined.

In its regular research, commissioned by the ITV companies, GfK estimates these rose to 94,000 in the third quarter of this year from 45,000 in the third quarter last year. BSkyB began scrambling all but two of its channels last September, which GfK says was clearly a 'significant factor' in the rise.

Nevertheless, the number of homes with dishes continues to grow, and net ownership in September was 2.328 million, up 30,000 on October. Most analysts said the churn was to be expected and BSkyB had done well in holding on to viewers. Even before last September, more than 80 per cent of them subscribed for one of Sky's existing pay channels. Sky, which is also broadcast on cable, has about 3.1 million subscribers.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns 50 per cent of BSkyB, has withdrawn its plan to create 'super voting' shares, blaming the Australian Stock Exchange's slowness on delivering a verdict on its proposal.

Mr Murdoch said the shares were to establish strategic alliances on information 'super-highways'. But it was widely seen as a way of entrenching his control.

Sam Chisholm, BSkyB chief executive, has been made a News Corp director and will head the Australian group's non-American TV interests.

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