Sky nets bumper haul of new customers

Broadcast giant finalises bid for next round of Premier League rights

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Sky today revealed it signed up more new customers in the last three months of 2014 than in any quarter for the past nine years.

It also reported a better-than-expected 16 per cent jump in first-half profits to £675 million.

The broadcast giant, which completed the takeovers of sister businesses in Germany and December in November, is finalising a bid for the next round of Premier League football rights.

“Our first set of results since our acquisitions of Germany and Italy — even though it’s early days — gives us great confidence in our strategy,” said chief executive Jeremy Darroch. “Revenues are up 5 per cent and churn is down to its lowest levels for decade.”

Darroch was tight-lipped on Sky’s likely bid for the next three seasons of live, Premier League football.

Once again Sky will be head-to-head with its new rival, BT Sport. But with talk that new bidders Discovery (owner of Eurosport) and beIN (the former Al Jazeera sport) entering the auction whose deadline is Friday, there has been speculation that the costs could soar from £3 billion to more than £4 billion.

Darroch said: “I am not going to speculate on the process.

“The Prenier League is important to us but the business is now so much more than that. We are well-prepared for the auction and have our strategy in place.”

To emphasise the way Sky has diversified Darroch highlighted its new crime show, Fortitude, almost certainly the broadcaster’s single-biggest investment in drama. Industry sources suggest Sky spent about £25 million making it and then some on marketing it.

“Already more than two million people in the UK have seen it,” said Darroch. “We have invested a lot in it. But at the same time, with the simultaneous launch in Germany and Italy, we can spread the costs further. At the same time we have sold it to a record  13 international broadcasters.”

Sky’s first-half revenues rose 5 per cent to £5.6 billion and the interim dividend is raised 3 per cent to 12.3p a share.

In the UK and Ireland Sky attracted 204,000 new customers in the final quarter. Sky Italy gained 30,000 for its best quarter in three years while Germany and Austria saw a quarterly record of 214,000 new customers.