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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 08:37 GMT
BSkyB subscriber numbers hit 8.1m
James Murdoch, BSkyB chief executive
James Murdoch said BSkyB would "push the bar further" this year
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB has said subscriber numbers rose 215,000 to 8.1 million in the quarter to 31 December, up from 7.6 million a year previously.

It also reported pre-tax profits of 390m ($691m) for the half-year to the end of December, up 14% on a year ago.

BSkyB recently paid 211m for Easynet, allowing it to package services such as high-speed internet access, pay-TV and phone calls.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation owns 37.6% of the broadcaster.

Confident on targets

BSkyB has recently been under attack over two of its most attractive viewer offerings.

Sky satellite dish and digital box

The EU has recently said it must end its exclusive coverage of English Premier League football, while MPs are unhappy at its exclusive deal on England test cricket matches.

Chief executive James Murdoch said more customers signed up to Sky during the last three months of 2005 than at any time in the last three years.

"This year we'll push the bar further with the launch of high-definition TV and our broadband service," he said.

"Results like these reinforce our confidence that we will achieve our goal of 10 million customers in 2010."

Less customer desertions

Churn, a major indicator looked at by the market to see if subscribers are sticking with the service, fell to 10.6% from 11.7% the previous quarter.

BSkyB said the seasonal effect of Christmas and the lack of price increases accounted for the fall in the level of customer desertions.

"Subscriber growth is ahead of expectations, the numbers in line and churn below 11%, which is pretty good, so I'd expect the shares to tick up," said Redwan Ahmed, an industry analyst at Oriel Securities.

BSkyB expects to add 100,000 net subscribers in the half year to 30 June, compared with 178,000 in the same period last year.

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