New subscribers double BSkyB earnings

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Media Editor

Buoyed by increased dish sales and more than 200,000 new subscribers, cable and satellite company BSkyB yesterday announced sharply higher first- quarter earnings of pounds 50.8m, double the figure last year.

The shares rose 16p to 486p on the news, as some analysts moved to mark up their forecasts for the year.

A total of 214,000 new subscribers signed up for the company's services, which include news, entertainment and sports, as well as speciality channels supplied by other broadcasters for distribution via BSkyB's pay-TV system. Sky now reaches 4.38 million homes by satellite or cable.

Sam Chisholm, chief executive, said: "Recent sales performance has been particularly strong and we enter the peak pre-Christmas selling season with our best line-up of entertainment, sport and new channels. He added that the addition of seven new channels in November fuelled subscriber growth in late summer and autumn. The Disney Channel, introduced on 1 November, is expected to power dish sales through the second quarter.

The number of customers subscribing via cable grew by 56 per cent over the comparable period last year, with direct-to-home subscriptions increasing by 35 per cent.

All told, subscriptions accounted for 85 per cent of turnover, with advertising revenues generating 10 per cent, up by 17 per cent since last time.

Operating costs climbed by 37 per cent like-for-like, of which programming costs accounted for 59 per cent. Spending on sports was primarily responsible for the rise.

On the all-important "pay-to-basic" ratio (the number of subscribers who take premium movie and sports channels), the company reported further growth, with 57 per cent of all customers taking all the extra-charge channels.