Sky profits rise as pay TV giant shrugs off BT challenge

Pay TV giant shrugged off the increasing threat from rival BT as it notched up its best first quarter UK customer growth...

Pay TV giant shrugged off the increasing threat from rival BT as it notched up its best first quarter UK customer growth for four years. - Credit: PA

Pay TV giant Sky shrugged off the increasing threat from rival BT as it notched up its best first quarter UK customer growth for four years.

The group said it added 77,000 customers in the three months to the end of September across the UK and Ireland, up 50% on a year earlier, while profits in the region leapt by a fifth to £358 million, helped by cost cutting.

Sky, which serves more than 20 million customers group-wide following the acquisition of businesses in Italy and Germany, hailed a “strong start to the year” as it posted a better-than-expected 10% leap in overall group earnings to £375 million.

It comes despite the launch of BT’s Champions League coverage, with the group seeking to lure customers away from Sky.

Sky said: “In what was expected to be a tough trading period, our investments in world class content and innovation delivered a good quarter of financial and operational growth.”

Its rate of churn - which measures the number of customers quitting the group - fell to 9.8% in the UK, down from 10.9% a year earlier, marking the lowest first quarter level for 11 years.

The group said broadband was its star performer, with a 77% surge in new customers, up 133,000 on a year earlier.

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Popular television series such as True Detective, as well as box set offerings including Sons Of Anarchy, Entourage and True Blood, helped viewing figures rise 70% year-on-year for Sky Atlantic in the UK and Ireland.

Sky Sports viewing rose 3%, it added.

Group performance was driven by the UK, while earnings were held flat in Germany and Austria and tumbled by 24% in Italy.

Sky struck a deal last November to buy Sky Italia and a majority interest in Sky Deutschland, which saw it change its name from BSkyB to Sky.

Shares in the group rose more than 2%.

Analysts at Numis Securities said the results were “encouraging”.