BSkyB profit leaps 33%, creates 1,000 jobs

Satcaster's customer base now at 9.4 mil

LONDON -- BSkyB bucked the economic mantra of gloom and job losses Wednesday, posting results well ahead of expectations and announcing 1,000 new jobs for call-center and engineering staff to cope with increasing customer demand.

Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said 171,000 new customers had signed up for the satellite TV service in the three months ending in December, up from 167,000 in the year-ago period, taking the total customer base to 9.4 million.

Revenue for the first half of the year was up 6% at 2.6 billion pounds ($3.7 billion), with profit up 33% at 226 million pounds ($322 million) compared with last year.

Sky said that more than half of its customers now had PVR-enabled service Sky Plus or Sky Plus HD services, adding that sales of both products accelerated in the quarter. Sky Plus HD services were adopted by 188,000 customers in the quarter, bringing the number of Sky Plus HD homes to 779,000. Over the same period 515,000 customers upgraded to the Sky Plus service, bringing the total to 4.7 million homes.

Sky said customer growth would be a strong focus going forward, and announced that it is slashing the cost of its Sky Plus HD boxes by two-thirds to 45 pounds ($64) beginning Wednesday.

Darroch, who has been CEO now for almost 18 months, said that Sky had achieved the results because of "good cost control" and the "hard work and dedication" of Sky staffers.

"Against a very difficult and uncertain economic backdrop we will continue to focus our efforts on customers," he said. "We enter 2009 in a strong position."

Analysts said the results were "very strong," and they were confident of the broadcaster's ongoing prospects despite the consumer gloom.

"While we are wary of unemployment as the year progresses, Sky has once against demonstrated its resilience," said Daniel Kerven, analyst at UBS Investment Research. "We continue to believe it can outperform its television and consumer peers."