Virgin has record uptick in new subscribers

Cabler signed 41,700 new customers in Q1, unveils HD box

LONDON -- Virgin Media wowed the market with a record uptick in new subscribers Wednesday, as chief executive Neil Berkett unveiled a new HD box for the cable group's customers and said HD roll-out was a key target.

The U.K. cable group signed 41,700 new customers in the first quarter of the year compared to 2,300 at the same stage last year, with net cable additions up 38,300 over the period, the biggest quarterly leap in the company's history. Group revenue was up 2.9% to £963 million ($1.4 billion) with operating income growing to £76 million ($115 million) from £13 million ($20 million) a year ago. Digital television customers were up 46,600 to a total of 3.7 million over the period, while Virgin's average monthly revenue per subscriber was up 5.3% at £45, while churn rates -- the percentage of customers quitting the service -- fell to an all time low of 1.1% per month.

Chief executive Neil Berkett said the combination of higher gross additions, low churn and increased average revenues delivered a fourth consecutive quarter of growth, and said Virgin Media's broadband backbone was driving new services.

"More customers than ever before are choosing faster broadband and everyday millions of our customers are enjoying the benefits of the video-on-demand revolution we are leading," he said, outlining the company's new HD rollout.

"The latest addition to our set-top box range will also enable more Virgin Media customers to enjoy HD television without an on-going monthly fee."
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