Operating profit up 5% to $501 million
LONDONJames Murdoch has been reappointed as a director of U.K. paybox BSkyB at the company’s annual general meeting with the support of 95% of stockholders. A year ago when there was an investor rebellion at the AGM triggered by Murdoch’s handling of the phone-hacking scandal at British tabloid the News of the World. Murdoch was making his first public appearance in Blighty since April, when he ankled as chairman of BSkyB, and was questioned by the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, set up as a result of the phone-hacking affair. At the AGM, held Thursday, Murdoch was opposed by only 4.98% of company stockholders who voted. One stockholder, John Marshall, criticized Murdoch at the meeting, He said his presence on the board was “toxic” and was damaging to the public perception of the business. Marshall said: “He clearly failed to ask questions he should have asked at News of the World over phone hacking. “The name of Murdoch is toxic with a large number of investors.” The AGM came as BSkyB announced first quarter results, which showed another slowdown in the number of new TV subscribers signing up for the service. In the three months to September, BSkyB added a mere 20,000 new customers. On the plus side, the paybox sold 533,000 products to its 10.6 million subscribers, including 102,000 broadband subscriptions and 125,000 signing up for high-definition. Programming costs surged by 10% to £589 million ($951 million), while revenues rose just 4% to £1.72 billion ($2.7 billion). Much of this was due to the escalating cost of sports rights. CEO Jeremy Darroch said greater efficiencies in the “back office” would enable BSkyB to keep its profits on track. He said: “I am reasonably comfortable about programming costs going up ahead of revenues.” Operating profit was up 5% over the same period last year to £310 million ($501 million).