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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Sky+ boosts broadcaster's profits
Sky dish and digital set-top box
BSkyB's digital subscriber base has now reached 7.7 million
Pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB has unveiled a rise in profits, buoyed by rising subscriber numbers.

The company reported pre-tax profits before one-off costs of 757m ($1.3bn) for the year to 30 June, up from 406m the previous year.

Subscriber numbers increased to 7.8 million for the year from 7.4 million, with turnover up 11% to 4.4bn.

BSkyB also said that the number of subscribers to its Sky+ product had more than doubled over the past year.

Sky+ customers rose 126%, while its multi-room product which allows viewers to watch different channels in different rooms rose by 120%.

However, churn - the number of subscribers leaving the service each year - rose to 10.5% from 10.3% in 2003/4.

Marketing blitz

In the final quarter to June, the average amount spent by each customer had risen to 384 - up 2 on the previous quarter.

The results come a year after chief executive James Murdoch unveiled an aggressive marketing blitz aimed at raising subscriber numbers.

Commentators and investors had voiced fears that the proposals would eat into the firm's profits - which drove shares in the firm sharply lower. Its stock has still to recover to levels seen before that announcement.

The firm was forced to act as it faced increasing pressure from the Freeview package of channels and from cable firms NTL and Telewest.

The promotional drive resulted in an increase in costs which rose 119m to 515m.

Mr Murdoch said the results proved that the business remained healthy and its market position strong.

On target

"In a highly competitive environment, we are confident in our ability to achieve our goals," he added.

The group also said it was on track to meet its target of eight million subscribers this year.

The results come as a family row is reported to have broken out among the Murdochs, who as major shareholders in News Corp own more than a third of BSkyB.

According to the Australian Financial Review the reason why Lachlan Murdoch left News Corp earlier this week was a row over inheritance.

Lachlan, elder son of Rupert Murdoch's second wife, is said to be angry at Murdoch senior's decision to give equal status to his two youngest children with his current wife, Wendy Deng.

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