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BSkyB boosted by popularity of high definition TV

28 January 10 10:00 GMT

Satellite TV group BSkyB has reported a 30% rise in half-year profits, boosted by the growing popularity of its high definition (HD) service.

The company, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, made a pre-tax profit of £358m in the six months to 31 December, up from £276m a year before.

BSkyB said that in the last quarter of 2009, it had added 482,000 net new customers to its Sky+HD service.

It said the success of this had been the "standout performance".

'Well positioned'

Overall, BSkyB said it had made 172,000 net customer additions in the quarter - at the top end of forecasts - taking its total customer base to 9.7 million.

BSkyB's revenues for the half-year grew by 10% to £2.9bn, while its rate of customer churn - the percentage of customers leaving - fell to 9.6% from 9.9% a year earlier.

Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said the company had focused on improving its "operational efficiency".

"While the economic outlook remains uncertain, we remain well positioned," he said.

In addition to the growing popularity of its HD offering, BSkyB will be launching Europe's first three dimension (3D) television channel in April.

Prior to that, it is broadcasting Sunday's Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester United in 3D.

Analyst Lorna Tilbian of Numis said BSkyB's increase in HD customers was "an outstanding performance".

Judgement

Last week, the Court of Appeal ordered BSkyB to cut its stake in ITV. BSkyB said it was continuing to evaluate this decision.

"Sky will review the judgement and order carefully, and consider next steps in due course," it said.

BSkyB bought its 17.9% stake in ITV for £940m at the end of 2006.

At the time, commentators said the move was to block an attempt by cable TV firm NTL (now Virgin Media) to buy ITV.

However, BSkyB has always denied this, saying it bought the stake purely as an investment.

The Court of Appeal has told BSkyB to reduce its stake in ITV to below 7.5%.

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