BSkyB has passed its target of eight million satellite subscribers, or nearly one in three UK households, but its chief operating officer and the managing director of Sky Interactive are both leaving.

The UK satellite operator had set a target of reaching 8 million direct-to-home subscribers by the end of 2005, and aims to reach 10 million in 2010.

“Sky is achieving strong growth,” said chief executive James Murdoch. “Nearly one in three homes and counting have chosen Sky and we are especially well placed to broaden Sky’s appeal as entertainment and communications come together.” He thanked customers for helping to make Britain “one of the world’s leading digital TV marketplaces.”

The news that Sky has passed the eight million milestone comes after the announcement that two key executives are leaving the company.

Richard Freudenstein, the chief operating officer of the British Sky Broadcasting Group has decided to leave the company in the summer of 2006 to return to Australia. He said it was a personal decision to return home and he will continue to play a major role with the company until then, including overseeing the launch of high-definition service and the negotiation of rights to Premier League football coverage.

Ian Shepherd, the managing director of Sky Interactive, is to leave after nearly nine years at the company to become director of commercial operations at Vodafone. Ian was an articulate advocate for interactive television at Sky, leading the re-launch of the Sky Active portal. In November, Sky launched a mobile television service in conjunction with Vodafone.

BSkyB has remained firmly on track with its forecasts, but the rate of subscriber growth has been slowing, while the number of homes receiving free-to-air digital terrestrial television has been growing significantly.

More than two thirds of UK households now receive some form of digital television. Analogue services will be switched off between 2008 and 2012.

Meanwhile, Sky is aiming to address the threats and opportunities presented by broadband, with the planned acquisition of broadband service provider Easynet and the imminent launch of a broadband download service for movies and sports clips.