Network continues to defy economic downturn

Dominant U.K. paybox BSkyB added 94,000 new customers in the three months to the end of September as the New Corp.-controlled company continued to defy the economic downturn.

The number of households taking the service now stands at 9.53 million, meaning BSkyB is well on course to hit 10 million subscribers by the end of 2010. The impressive perf was due partly to the popularity of the satcaster’s HD offering.

During the quarter the number of subscribers signing up for Sky+HD grew by 287,000 to 1.6 million — a growth rate three times that of a year ago.

Operating profits rose 11% to £198 million ($324 million) on revenues up 10% to $2.23 billion.

“Our business has made a good start to our 2010 financial year with another quarter of strong results,” said BSkyB topper Jeremy Darroch. “In what continues to be a tough economic environment, we have increased the number of customers joining Sky.

”High definition has continued to perform very well and more customers are saving money by choosing Sky for TV, broadband and telephony.”

The results come as BSkyB is in the throes of a tussle with media regulator Ofcom.

The watchdog wants the paybox to sell its premium channels at lower prices to rivals, including cabler Virgin Media, and so reduce consumer prices.

In an attack timed to coincide with BSkyB’s results, Virgin topper Richard Branson used an article in the Financial Times to accuse News Corp.’s pay TV platform of uncompetitive operating tactics.

He wrote, “The pay TV market today is reminiscent of the airline market in 1990. There’s a dominant incumbent with an iron grip on the supply of key content that uses all its muscle to prevent competitors coming into the market.”

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