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EDITIONS
Friday, 8 November, 2002, 17:38 GMT
BSkyB tunes in to profits
Satellite dish
BSkyB beams TV programmes via satellite dish
British satellite TV broadcaster BSkyB has bounced back into profit, helped by strong growth in subscriber numbers.

The company said on Friday that pre-tax profits for the three months to late September came in at 43m ($68m), compared with a loss of 23m during the same period last year.

The figure far outstripped the 34m forecast by analysts.

The company's improved performance partly reflected a sharp increase in its subscriber base, with 217,000 new customers signing up during the quarter.

BSkyB said it now had an audience of 6.3 million, putting it 'comfortably' on track to hit its target of 7 million subscribers by the end of 2003.

The jump in new subscriptions follows the collapse in May this year of rival pay TV service ITV Digital.

Adverts upturn

BSkyB reported a decline in its 'churn rate' - the proportion of customers cancelling their subscriptions - to 9.6%, the lowest figure since it began broadcasting.

The company also held out the prospect of a recovery in the advertising market, saying that advertising revenues in the period had risen by 12% on the year to 60m.

But the firm's revenues were hit by a drop in subscriber numbers at troubled cable TV firms NTL and Telewest, both of which offer Sky premium channels.

The failure of ITV Digital, which also carried Sky channels, put its wholesale revenues under further pressure.

BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball said the company had had a 'record breaking quarter,' and promised continued profit growth in the months ahead.

Sports desk

The satellite broadcaster is maintaining its strategy of luring audiences by snapping up exclusive rights to screen high-profile sports events.

BSkyB's sports channel is due to provide exclusive live coverage of the England rugby union internationals against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa later this month.

The company has also bought the rights to 102 UEFA Champions' League football matches over the next three seasons.

In the City, BSkyB shares rose nearly 2% to 610p in early trade, but then closed down 14.5p at 584.5p.


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