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BSkyB Posts Record Fiscal-Year Earnings, Adds 34,000 TV Subs in Quarter

BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch Headshot - P 2012
Courtesy of BSkyB
BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch

UPDATED: The U.K. pay TV giant, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, had added 20,000 TV subs in the year-ago period.

LONDON – U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB on Friday reported record operating earnings for its fiscal year ended June 30 and said it added 34,000 TV subscribers in the latest quarter.

That compared with 20,000 TV subscriber additions in the year-ago quarter.

The company, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, didn't disclose how many of the additions came in the form of traditional pay TV customers in the latest quarter. BSkyB, led by CEO Jeremy Darroch, has this year started to report total TV subscriber additions, which include traditional pay TV users and customers who pay for its subscription streaming service Now TV.

However, both traditional and Now TV subscriber figures rose in the latest quarter, according to sources.

The company's full-year operating profit amounted to a record $2 billion (£1.3 billion), up 9 percent compared with a then-record $1.86 billion (£1.2 billion) in the previous fiscal year. Revenue for the year rose 7 percent to $11.1 billion (£7.24 billion). The results beat analysts' expectations.

BSkyB also announced a £500m stock buyback program on Friday.
And it boosted its full-year dividend 18 percent, marking its ninth consecutive year of a higher dividend.

Analysts are keeping close tabs on BSkyB's subscriber trends in various product categories.

BSkyB has recently seen increased competition from telecom giant BT, which acquired some English Premier League soccer rights and will launch sports networks next week.

"Concerns about the impact of BT Sports will likely overhang sentiment for BSkyB near-term and there will only be visibility on the issue post the start of the new Premier League season in August," UBS analyst Polo Tang.

During a meeting with analysts, Darroch spoke of "what continues to be a challenging consumer environment." But he said that BSkyB over the past five years also faced such challenges and still managed to bring in "sustained growth," including an average annual revenue gain of 8 percent. The firm also more than doubled its earnings per share over the period, he said, lauding BSkyB's multi-product strategy "that opens up new sources of future growth."

Asked about the competition with BT, Darroch said: "I think this is a business that loves competition. We compete against a whole range of businesses of various sizes and we treat them all with respect...we continue to make really strong progress."

For its full fiscal year ended June 30, BSkyB reported 134,000 subscriber additions, compared with 100,000 in the previous fiscal year, to end June with 10.42 million TV subscribers.

However, similar to U.S. cable operators, adding traditional TV subscribers is not a main financial growth engine for BSkyB anymore.

Broadband, telephony, HD TV and Internet TV services are now driving much of the growth.

BSkyB signed up 119,000 new broadband users in the latest quarter, plus added 400,000 via the acquisition of telecom firm's O2's broadband business. That brought its total broadband user figure to 4.9 million as of mid-year.

Total paid-for subscription products grew by 1.4 million in the latest quarter and nearly 3.3 million for the past year to hit more than 31.63 million as of June 30.

The company on Friday also said that more than 50,000 people have paid $15.40 (£9.99) for a sports "day pass" to see Sky Sports content on Now TV.

BSkyB further announced several technology investment initiatives that analysts said would affect profitability over the near term. BSkyB's stock was down 4 percent in the early afternoon London time.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai