U.K. Telecom Giant BT Reports Improved Pay TV Sub Growth in Latest Quarter

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The company that has increasingly competed with BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, doubled its customer growth compared with the year-ago period.

LONDON -- British telecom giant BT Group said Friday that it added 54,000 pay TV subscribers in its fiscal third quarter, which ended on June 30.

That was more than double the growth in the year-ago period. BT had a total of 956,000 pay TV users as of the end of 2013. That compares with BSkyB's 10.5 million.

BT has increasingly competed for sports rights and subscribers with U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake.

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BT said its BT Sport networks, which carry English Premier League matches and other sports, had more than 2.5 million users as of the end of 2013, up by about 500,000 in the latest quarter.

"This is an encouraging set of results," said BT CEO Gavin Patterson. "Our strategic investments are delivering."

About the sports networks, he said: "We achieved some particularly strong audience figures in December, and the exclusive rights to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League that we have won will further strengthen the appeal of our proposition."

Discussing a possible carriage agreement with BSkyB for the BT Sport networks, Patterson said Friday that he was open to more talks but signaled that the two parties had different views on the price tag. "We'll continue to be available to talk about it," he said, though.

BT on Friday also said it added 150,000 broadband subscribers in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, bringing its total to 7.1 million.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai