BSkyB inks exclusive HBO deal

Deal thought to be worth $234 mil over five years

Blighty’s deep-pocketed paybox BSkyB has signed an output deal with HBO believed to be worth £150 million ($234 million) over five years.

Deal gives the News Corp. satcaster exclusive rights to all new HBO shows, headed by “Boardwalk Empire,” plus exclusive rights to existing fare including “Entourage” — originally screened by commercial broadcaster ITV in the U.K. — archive shows including “The Sopranos,” plus first refusal on future U.K. co-production agreements.

The tie-up with HBO, announced as BSkyB revealed another set of impressive financial figures, shows its determination to attract new subscribers who have not been tempted by its sports and movie channels.

The move is a blow to rival broadcasters, especially Channel 4, which had a history of screening HBO skeins, and even the BBC. BBC execs made no secret of their admiration for “Boardwalk Empire,” whose pilot episode is helmed by Martin Scorsese.

For BSkyB, the output deal will not only provide extra heft for channels like Sky One, but also increase the appeal of its soon-to-bow VOD service, Sky Anytime Plus.

“It’s a major deal for us to become the U.K. home of HBO content,” said BSkyB topper Jeremy Darroch. “As we differentiate our content offering, we see more customers joining and are able to offer more value for existing customers.”

News of the HBO coup came as Rupert Murdoch’s paybox reported a surge in profits, driven by new subscriptions, especially for HD channels.

Net profit was $846 million for the year to the end of June, up from $704 million in the previous year period.

The firm said it had doubled the number of HD customers over the year, adding 429,000. Most of these were subscribers who upgraded.

The satcaster now has 9.86 million subscribers and aims to have 10 million before the end of the year.

But as the HBO deal demonstrates, BSkyB has even greater ambitions as it secures competitive advantages in a world where new connected TV services, backed by the likes of BBC and Google, will soon emerge.

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