BSkyB Q3 pretax profits boosted by HD

Unveils new Sky News HD channel to launch next week

LONDON -- Satcaster BSkyB reaped the reward of its investment in high definition technology Thursday, announcing that 428,000 new and existing customers opted for Sky's HD package in the last three months.

The news -- part of the satcaster's Q3 results announcement, came on the same day that Sky unveiled its new Sky News HD channel, which will kick off May 6, the date of the British general election.

"We have seen a huge response to our decision to cut the upfront cost of HD," said BSkyB boss Jeremy Darroch.

"Our financial performance is accelerating," he said.

Announcing operating profit up 4% to £645 million ($985 million) for the nine-month period to the end of March 2010, on revenues up 11% at £4.4 billion ($6.7 billion) over the same period, Britain's biggest pay TV platform said it had signed a total of 62,000 net new customers in the third quarter, bringing its total customer base to 9.8 million homes.

Sky has also made progress rolling out its broadband Internet service to customers, posting 1.9 million homes taking combined television, Internet and telephony services, a hike of 39% year-on-year.

The successful customer landgrab bundled with higher-cost packages delivered an 11% in ARPU -- the average revenue per user -- to an all time high of £500 ($763 million) per year.

Speaking on a conference call, BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch said the consumer environment "remained tough." But he said customers had responded positively to innovation and value.

Sky is currently in the High Court to fight an Ofcom ruling to bring down the amount it can charge rivals for its sports channels. The media regulator also wants to force open the market for VOD rights to movies, a step opposed by studios and BSkyB alike.