BSkyB takes entire HBO TV catalog

As operating profits rise 10% to $1.3 billion

LONDON -- Martin Scorsese and "The Sopranos" scribe Terence Winter's much-anticipated Prohibition-era drama "Boardwalk Empire" is to rollout to audiences here exclusively on U.K. pay TV satcaster BSkyB.

The Home Box Office-commissioned show is being used by the British satcaster to help trumpet a multi-year output deal sources value at around £150 million ($235 million), which will see Sky become the home of HBO programs in the U.K. and Ireland.

Through the pact, lauded by Sky Thursday, all new HBO-commissioned programs and series will be broadcast exclusively, and in high definition, on Sky channels.

With a cast including Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt and Kelly Macdonald, "Boardwalk Empire" is scheduled to make its U.S. debut on HBO in September 2010, "with a U.K. and Ireland premiere on Sky to follow shortly after," the satcaster said.

Future HBO productions to be broadcast by Sky will also include "Game of Thrones," the fantasy drama based on the series of books "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin, and "Luck," exec produced by David Milch and Michael Mann and starring Dustin Hoffman.

In addition, future seasons of existing HBO shows -- such as "Entourage" and "Big Love" -- will be broadcast exclusively on Sky channels in the U.K. and Ireland "at the conclusion of their current broadcast rights agreements."

Sky will also offer subscribers the entire HBO library of shows such as "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" and will also have right of first negotiation with respect to all future HBO U.K. co-productions.

Sky managing director, entertainment, news and broadcast operations Sophie Turner Laing said the move is part of the satcasters drive to offer "the best possible choice of pay content, whether that's through original U.K. production or the best of the U.S." Said Laing: "Like HBO, we believe that innovative, high-quality content is worth paying for."

The deal was brokered by Sky's Robert Kingston, Sarah Wright and Emma Moloney and HBO's Royce Battleman, Viv Eisenberg and Meeka Bondy.

On the day the satcaster revealed 400,000 new subscribers to its HD service in the second quarter of 2010, it also put jokes to one side, heralding what it called a "major commitment to original British comedy," with a raft of programs for its flagship entertainment channel, Sky1.

The lineup reads like a who's who of best loved British comedy names including Ruth Jones, Dawn French, Victoria Wood, Catherine Tate, Kathy Burke, Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey and Sally Lindsay.

The satcaster said the shows aim to lure subscribers to its channel and, supported by a multi-million pound investment fund, the new productions will complement shows already airing on the channel including "Modern Family" and "The Simpsons."

The company, listed here on the stock exchange posted an 11% rise in revenues to £5.9 billion ($9.2 billion) for the 12 months ending June 30, 2010. Operating profits also rose 10% year on year to £855 million ($1.3 billion).

BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: "High definition goes from strength to strength, with more than twice as many customers as a year ago. Strong customer demand is increasingly reflected in our financial results, with double-digit growth in each of revenue, operating profit and cash flow. It has been a good year for Sky but we stay focused on the challenge ahead. The economic outlook remains uncertain and, against that backdrop, we'll pursue the consistent set of priorities that have served us well so far."

In total BSkyB added 90,000 net new customers, keeping the company on track to hit its much-publicised target of 10 million subs by the end of the year.
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