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Virgin adds 7,100 new customers

Pay TV proves resilient in downturn

LONDON — Virgin Media, the Nasdaq-listed U.K. cabler, has defied analysts’ predictions by signing up 7,100 new customers in the first quarter, bringing its total to 3.65 million.

Forecasts had predicted that Virgin would lose 2,000 customers but, like rival BSkyB, which has close to 10 million subscribers, the company is demonstrating that pay TV is far more recession resilient than free-to-air TV.

Revenues unveiled Tuesday were down marginally from £947.3 million ($1.42 billion) last year to $1.4 billion on a loss of business customers. Net losses grew to $231.5 million from $157 million last year.

Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett said he is focusing as much on encouraging existing subscribers to spend more with the paybox as on bringing in new customers. The average revenue per user increased year on year for the third successive quarter to $68.80 from $63.27.

Virgin, which last fall pinkslipped 15% of its staff, is trumpeting the success of its new video-on-demand service featuring shows from terrestrial commercial web ITV. Service received 4 million views in March.