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Sub count bubbles up at ITV Digital

Additional 82,000 subscribers sign up in quarter

LONDON — ITV Digital signed up an additional 82,000 subscribers in the quarter ended Sept. 30, taking the troubled terrestrial pay TV platform’s total to just over 1.2 million.

Company said that 138,000 customers had signed up for its new premium ITV Sport Channel and that 4,500 pubs in the U.K. now offer ITV Digital.

The results were above expectations.

But ITV Digital — co-owned by Carlton Communications and Granada Media, the two big ITV companies — added that churn was 23.1%, well above the 10% figure for satcaster British Sky Broadcasting. BSkyB is believed to have somewhere north of 5.5 million subs.

Financial drain

The business has proved a financial drain on Carlton and Granada, who are also affected by the downturn in TV advertising, and is expected to have cost £1.1 billion ($1.57 billion) before it breaks even, perhaps in a year or so, when its sub count reaches 1.7 million. Roughly $1.1 billion has already been spent.

Speculation is rife that Carlton and Granada are considering drastic measures, such as bringing in another investor or perhaps even pulling the plug on the venture. The two have held talks with a number of companies, including BSkyB and RTL Group. But RTL has now said it would only be interested in a strategic alliance if ITV Digital was out of the picture.

ITV Digital insisted that Carlton and Granada have no immediate plans to shutter the platform.

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