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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
NTL lags BSkyB in subscriber battle
NTL graphic
NTL: Spending will in future be "prudent"
Cable TV operator NTL is losing ground against satellite rival BSkyB in the battle to win UK viewers, figures have revealed.

NTL, working its way out of bankruptcy, said its UK subscriber numbers fell by 70,000 to just under 2.7 million.

Underlying earnings edged lower to 174m in the April to June period, compared with 177m for the quarter before.

The figures came two weeks after BSkyB revealed it had won 214,000 new subscribers in the April to June period, boosting its total subscriber base to 6.1 million.

The data suggests BSkyB stole a march on NTL in the war to snap up viewers switching subscriptions from failed broadcaster ITV Digital.

'Solid performance'

But NTL chief Barclay Knapp said the firm's customer losses had been expected at a time of financial disruption, in which the cable operator made substantial progress in overhauling its debt mountain.

"We have had a solid performance," Mr Knapp said.

NTL was poised to emerge from bankruptcy "on time", indicating a 5 September resumption of normal operations, when it would be well positioned for prosperity.

"Although we wouldn't wish to be in this position in any way, shape or form, we do believe that coming out of the process, we'll be able to restart our growth," he said.

Spending constraints

The firm would not, however, return to the high spending levels which bought it to its knees, as it splashed out on its cable network.

"We're going to be very prudent about how we spend money and how we emerge from the process and how we restart growth," Mr Knapp said.

"The environment isn't getting any better, neither the environment for our kinds of companies nor the economic environment."

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