Chief of pay TV giant denies rumors that he will quit

LONDON — BSkyB topper James Murdoch has again denied speculation that he is poised to leave the satcaster to work for his father’s News Corp. in New York.

As the paybox reported disappointing growth in the number of new subscribers for the October-December quarter, Murdoch said: “It’s not for me to inform the board of the duration of my tenure. Generally speaking, at companies it works the other way round.

“I have said publicly and I will do so again, I have no plans to go anywhere right now.”

Sky Italia boss Tom Mockeridge is one name linked to the BSkyB CEO seat.

BSkyB’s profits for the six months to December were down 4.6% year-on-year to £395 million ($770 million), partly due to the big investment in broadband and the purchase of Easynet.

Sales increased 10% to $4.32 billion.

In the three months to December the satcaster added 183,000 subscribers, bringing the total to 8.4 million.

This was fewer than the 190,000 forecast by analysts, who also expressed concern at the rate of churn — 11.9%.

Murdoch said the relatively high number of people canceling their subs reflected a new policy focused on retaining higher-spending customers.

“Underlying churn was about 10.6%,” he said. “It’s a matter of a few quarters of this adjustment, and we do feel confident.”

But Simon Wallis at Collins Stewart said in the runup to Christmas turnover was supposed to be low. “Christmas is not a popular time to unplug Sky.”

In early trading Wednesday on the London stock market, BSkyB’s shares fell but later rallied.

BSkyB is operating in an increasingly competitive market. BT is rolling out its hybrid digital terrestrial and broadband TV service, BT Vision, while the U.K. cable giant NTL is about to relaunch as Virgin Media.

Said Murdoch: “We’re on track for our targets, and our expansion into broadband and telephony positions us well to take advantage of a growing opportunity in a £20 billion ($39 billion) industry.”

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