The pay-TV giant has struck an exclusive output deal to be the only place to watch HBO shows from now on. Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese’s series about Atlantic City gangsters, will be the first show to air through the deal in the autumn. Future HBO shows airing exclusively will include Game of Thrones and Luck, executive produced by Michael Mann and starring Dustin Hoffman. The next series of HBO shows such as Entourage and Big Love will also air exclusively on the channel.

The output deal also gives Sky on-demand rights to hit HBO shows such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under.

Sky is throwing huge amounts of money at programming. It wants to get away from the downmarket image it’s saddled with. Many early adopters lived on council estates – think housing projects – peppering the skyline with satellite dishes. Sky is pulling strenuously upmarket. It’s just announced that it’s taking over ITV’s prestigious arts programme The South Bank Show. And it’s pouring big money into original drama such as Terry Pratchett TV movies and adaptations of crime author Martina Cole.

This year, Sky will spend £1.7 billion ($2.7 billion) on content – most of it on movies and sports rights though. By contrast, ITV will spend £1 billion, Channel 4 £550 million and Channel Five £165 million.

Meanwhile, BSkyB has just announced its fourth-quarter results for the year ending June 30.

Subscribers have increased 90,000 to reach 9.9 million. That means BSkyB is easily on target to reach the magic 10 million subscriber figure by year-end. Nearly one third of subscribers are taking Sky+ high-definition television packages. One in five customers are now taking the “triple play” of TV, broadband and telephony, up 36% year on year.

This quarter’s adjusted EBITDA was £1.2 billion, up 11%. Operating profits rose 10% year on year to £855 million.

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