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Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 17:47 GMT
BSkyB boosts internet sites

Interactive digital TV: now internet expansion


British Sky Broadcasting is investing 250m in its new media ventures sky.com and skysports.com over the next 18 months in a bid to replicate its television successes on the internet.

The plan was announced along with half-year results which showed that BSkyB had made a 61.5m pre-tax loss, reflecting the costs of rolling out its digital television services.


Rupert Murdoch: Late convert to the internet
The company has been giving away the set-top boxes needed to convert its broadcast signal into the digital service, which offers viewers a far greater range of channels.

Although costly, the strategy seems to be working, as the company says it now has 2.6 million subscribers to the digital service, and 2.3 million of those already installed.

Investors were certainly impressed - BSkyB shares surged 300 pence to 1,910p.

Sporty spice

BSkyB - which is 40% owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation - says it aims to become the top sports internet site in the UK within 12 months.

It will have a battle on its hands, however, as the BBC plans to launch a multimedia sports website in July - at www.bbcsport.net - and the corporation's new director general, Greg Dyke, has made sport on the net his number one priority.

Mr Murdoch, who was famously slow to embrace the internet, is now making up for lost time.

BSkyB has also announced that it has entered into a 50:50 joint venture with Hull-based Kingston Communications to provide a range of broadcast entertainment and high-speed internet services to consumers across eastern Yorkshire.

BSkyB says it is also pursuing agreements with British Telecom's mobile phone arm, BT Cellnet, and others to supply BSkyB content to users of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) mobile phones.

These are the latest generation phones which allow wireless internet access.

Upbeat

BSkyB has also announced investments in UK internet retailer Streets OnLine and Static, an interactive television developer and design consultancy.

In the half-year to the end of 1999, BSkyB made a pre-tax loss of 61.5m ($98m), compared with a profit of 53.2m ($85m) in the same period a year earlier.

Turnover was ahead at 874.6m, compared with 772.1m.

The company said digital subscribers increased by 796,000 in the three months to the end of December, compared with 531,000 in the previous quarter, bringing its total subscriber base to 8.404 million.

Although the loss was bigger than expected by analysts, BSkyB's shares have been buoyed by the healthy subscriber growth.

Its share price jumped 10% on Tuesday to 1610.5 pence in anticipation of indications in the half-year results that the company has found a winning formula.

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See also:
02 Feb 00 |  Business
Nokia and Murdoch hold talks
15 Oct 99 |  The Company File
BSkyB signs up 1.8m to digital
11 Jan 00 |  Business
BSkyB faces pay TV probe
11 Aug 99 |  The Company File
BSkyB leaps ahead in digital race
05 Nov 99 |  The Company File
BSkyB buys into Man City

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