TalkTalk gained 160,000 television customers in the United Kingdom in three months, mostly by giving away YouView boxes to its existing broadband subscribers. BT only managed to gain 23,000 television customers in the same period, despite signing up half a million people to its BT Sport package, most of them receiving it free as part of their broadband bundle. Sky added a modest 34,000 television subscribers in that time, which is more than in the same quarter the previous year, suggesting that while subscriber growth is inevitably slowing, competition from BT and TalkTalk has yet to make much impact.
TalkTalk added 160,000 television customers in the last quarter, taking its total television base to 390,000 in the nine months since it started giving away YouView boxes. Yet in the same period it has only added 24,000 broadband customers, which now approach 3.9 million.
TalkTalk customers are clearly pleased with their free YouView boxes, which are available for sale online for around £190. Satisfaction is high and churn is lower.
Yet only one in four TalkTalk homes with YouView has actually paid for any programming.
The average revenue per user for TalkTalk network customers has only risen by 91 pence a month to £26.28 over the same period and has actually fallen by 54 pence to £21.94 for off-net customers.
Total revenue for the three months to the end of June 2013 was £421 million, compared to £414 for the same period the previous year.
Later in the Year TalkTalk will introduce a cheaper box, without a hard drive. TalkTalk is clearly intent on increasing its television homes beyond 10% of its customer base but the cost is considerable.
With YouView claiming at the end of May that it was approaching 400,000 homes, it seems the vast majority of those are with TalkTalk, with very modest retail sales.
BT added only 23,000 television customers in the last quarter, compared to 40,000 the preceding quarter, taking its total television base to 833,000 homes after six years. BT does not break out the number with YouView, rather than the original BT Vision boxes.
The company meanwhile added 95,000 broadband customers in the quarter, compared to 85,000 in the same quarter a year previously, taking its total broadband customer base to just under 6.8 million, of which 12% take its television services.
BT made much of the news that half a million households have ordered BT Sport in anticipation of its launch. Most of these are existing customers who have re-contracted their broadband service, and most of them are likely to be Sky Sports customers.
With the football season yet to kick off, there is still a lot to play for. So far it seems that TalkTalk appears to have done relatively better, without spending anything on exclusive sports coverage.
Sky meanwhile added a modest 34,000 television subscribers in the last quarter, taking it to over 10.4 million homes, up from nearly 10.3 million a year previously.
However, Sky added over half a million broadband subscribers in the quarter, taking its total to 4.9 million. Sky responded to BT Sport by offering subscribers to Sky Sports free broadband if they switched from BT. Sky gained 119,000 broadband customers and a further 400,000 through the acquisition of 02.
There are now nearly 4.8 million homes with Sky+HD, of which 2.7 million are also connected to the internet.
Nearly 3.3 million users now have the Sky Go multiscreen service, of which 166,000 pay a premium of £5 a month for Sky Go Extra, which also allows downloads for offline viewing, up 122,000 over the quarter.
“We’ve seen an explosion in on-demand and mobile viewing as more people connect their Sky boxes to broadband and watch TV on laptops and mobile devices with Sky Go,” said Jeremy Darroch, the chief executive. “The benefits to our business are equally strong through take-up of higher-tier packages, expanded revenue opportunities and improved customer satisfaction.”
Sky reported that customer churn had risen slightly, from 10.8% to 10.9%. That means that every year it loses over a million pay-television customers, which it has to make up just to stand still, making customer retention all the more important.
Freesat claimed that it had gained 145,000 homes for its free satellite service over the previous year, which compare favourably to 134,000 net additions to Sky. Freesat says it is now in 1.8 million homes, after sales of 3.3 million receivers since its launch in 2008.
Emma Scott, the managing director of Freesat said: “Our continued strong results show thousands of people making the smart choice of Freesat as the alternative to expensive TV contracts.”
Not that Freesat, a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, actually reports results or has subscribers. Its figures are based on receiver sales data from GfK research and YouGov surveys. They include any home that actively uses Freesat in any room.
Nevertheless, the numbers suggest that Freesat has made modest gains, mainly at the expense of Sky, and stands to gain more with its <Freetime> service that provides a competitive alternative to YouView.