BSkyB added 95,000 subscribers in the last quarter, and now reaches 7.7 million satellite customers in the UK and Ireland. 10% of these now have a Sky+ personal video recorder. Turnover for the last nine months was up 10%, with profit up 12% on the previous year.
The company says it is well on track to reach its target of 8 million subscribers by the end of 2005. In fact, Sky signed up over 300,000 subscribers over the last quarter, but the annualised rate of churn rose to 11.1% over the last three months, although Sky aims to keep that figure around 10%. In the last three quarters Sky increased its spending on marketing to £379 million, representing 13% of a total turnover of more than £3 billion.
“Continued focus on the implementation of our strategy is returning strong subscriber growth, a good mix of customers, growth in Sky+ and multiroom, and substantial profit and cashflow,” said chief executive James Murdoch.
The Sky+ personal video recorder appears to be attracting new subscribers. A third of new Sky+ households were first-time subscribers. There are now 770,000 homes with a Sky+ PVR, more than double the number a year ago.
Commenting on plans by UK cable companies to introduce personal video recorders, James Murdoch noted that it was already a competitive market. “If you walk into Dixons you will see a number of DVRs on the shelf. We think that the Sky+ product is priced attractively. We think it’s a great product and we’re going to try and articulate its benefits to subscribers and future subscribers alike.”
Sky is preparing to launch a high-definition version of Sky+, but would not be drawn on any plans for connectivity such as broadband capability, saying that any such additional features would be announced in due course. There was a hint, however, that falling costs of disk drives could be passed on to customers with higher capacities available in the future for the same price.
The growth in Sky+ penetration is also driving the number of households taking two or more subscriptions, with over half of Sky+ subscribers taking two or more subscriptions. The total number of multiroom households more than doubled over the year to 563,000, now representing 7% of the subscriber base.
SkyBet revenues rose during the last quarter to reach £186 million for the last nine months, up 40% on the same period in previous year. Gross margin rose to 10%, driven by the introduction of new fixed odds games such as Roulette. With the recent passing of a new Gambling Bill, Sky says there will be further opportunities from the end of the year.
Sky Active revenues fell 22% as a result of reductions in sales in the SkyBuy retail service which had been “de-emphasised” as they were not particularly profitable. Other interactive revenues rose 5% to £62 million over nine months, reflecting growth in interactive advertising, games and third party betting and gaming.