BSkyB posted £3.75B in adjusted revenues for the six months ended December 31, 2013, up 7.6% on the comparable period in 2012, the company said this morning. Operating profit dropped 8% to £595M compared to the same period the year prior. Still, that was slightly better than the £586M some analysts had predicted as Sky faces increasing rivalry from BT over sports rights. Adjusted earnings (EBIDTA) were stable at £813M. Of note, there was strong demand for subscription products including TV, telephone and broadband with 873,000 signed up in the last three months of 2013; 42% more than the similar period in 2012. The operator now has over 5.1M broadband subscribers. Churn, one of the elements that investors are keeping a close eye on, was 10.8% for the period, up .5%, but down .2% for the final quarter. On-demand usage also increased threefold in the last quarter. Shares in the 21st Century Fox-controlled pay-TV provider were up 4.6% in morning London trading.
Shares in 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB were up today in London after falling as much as 10% on Monday. That drop came after the UK’s BT Sport scored a big goal by winning the exclusive broadcast rights to 350 UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer matches per year from the 2015/2016 season. The £897M ($1.4B) deal that was announced Saturday marks the first time a single UK broadcaster has won the exclusive live rights to all matches from both tournaments (BSkyB and ITV currently share them). It was seen as a big kick in the shins to Britain’s leading pay-TV group, but could end up as a boon for British producers. Sky’s recent growth is through its entertainment channels, while premium sports and movies are relatively stable. So, increasing the pot on acquisitions and original commissions looks like “a sensible place to keep investing,” I’m told.
Britain’s BT has pacted with Liberty Global-owned Virgin Media to offer its nascent BT Sport package on Virgin’s UK pay-TV service. The move comes just in time for the British Premier League soccer season which kicks off this weekend. The wholesale deal more than triples the number of BT Sport viewers, bringing the total to about 3M for the three channels (Virgin’s XL subscribers will get the channels for free and lower tier subscribers will be able to purchase them for £15.) Both BT and Virgin compete with Sky, the UK’s dominant pay player. However, Virgin also offers Sky’s channels meaning that following today’s BT pact, it becomes “the only place sports fans can enjoy every goal, try, penalty and heart-stopping sporting moment,” Virgin said in a statement. Sky, meanwhile, is giving Britain a “free day of football” on Saturday when it makes Sky Sports available to every UK household. As a rule, BT offers BT Sport 1, 2 and ESPN HD for free to its broadband customers.
BT has steadily increased its position in the sports rights arena, outbidding ESPN for 38 live Premier League matches for each of the next three seasons in a £738M deal in 2012. (It has since acquired ESPN’s UK & Ireland TV businesses.) At the same time, Sky is paying £2.3B over three years for 116 live matches. Other players have tried and failed to take on Sky in the sports game, but some media watchers say BT isn’t necessarily eyeing a challenge to its supremacy in that domain.
UK telecommunications provider BT is negotiating to buy soccer rights from ESPN as the Disney-owned channel explores an exit from the UK, the Financial Times reports. BT aims to launch as many as three sports channels offering soccer, rugby …
While anti-piracy legislation is at a standstill in the US, the path was cleared in the UK today for the Digital Economy Act, a law that requires Internet providers to crack down on suspected pirates. London’s Court of Appeals thwarted a challenge to the Act from two of the country’s leading broadband companies, TalkTalk Telecom and the BT Group, by upholding a lower court’s decision that the Act is consistent with European laws. The move allows officials to finally begin implementing the legislation which has been slow to move forward since it was originally established in 2010. Under the Act, rights holders will inform ISPs when they have suspicions of material being illegally downloaded. The ISPs will then be required to alert suspects in writing under a graduated response system that could ultimately result in penalties. The 2 operators in question contended that it was not for them to police their customers, citing excessive costs and the question of invasion of privacy. The decision comes a little less than 2 months after the US put the controversial PIPA and SOPA bills on hold. Industry groups in the UK today welcomed the news. Lavinia Carey, chief of the British Video Association, said the org was “delighted that the Government can now press on with implementation of notice-sending under the 2010 Digital Economy Act. The video industry generates the single largest source of returns on investment for film
British broadband and digital TV provider BT Vision has entered a licensing agreement with Miramax to give BT Vision Unlimited customers a selection of movies on demand from the Miramax library. In a first, a special Miramax-branded area will be created within BT’s Film space. The deal with BT follows a streaming agreement that Miramax entered with Netflix for the U.K. and Ireland late last year. The full BT Vision/Miramax press release is below:
The agreement gives BT Vision Unlimited subscribers instant access to a range of films from the Miramax collection, which has received 284 Academy Award nominations and won 68 Oscars.
The films available will include: Academy Award Best Picture winner Chicago; Pulp Fiction, the modern classic directed by Quentin Tarantino, as well as Kill Bill 1 and 2; nine-Academy Award winner The English Patient; Good Will Hunting, written by and starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck; The Talented Mr. Ripley, starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law; The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorsese; and the first three instalments of the horror franchise, Scream.
BSkyB has for years held exclusive rights to the movies of the major Hollywood studios in the first subscription pay-TV window, the UK’s Competition Commission pointed out in a provisional report issued today, saying Sky’s large subscriber base is preventing rivals BT and Virgin Media from bidding successfully against Sky for these rights. BSkyB responded by saying it will cooperate with the the ongoing regulatory review but believes that no regulatory intervention is required.
“At the heart of the problem is Sky’s strong position in the pay-TV market, with twice as many subscribers to pay TV as all other traditional pay-TV retailers put together,” said Laura Carstensen, who headed the commission probe. Sky supplies some other pay-TV companies with its movie channels, but the industry watchdog said that prices charged for the service are too high. Consumers are paying up to $98M a year too much to see films on television as result of Sky’s dominance, the commission said. Subscribers to Sky’s 12 movie channels pay roughly $60 a month.
Kip Meek has been appointed non-executive chairman of Project Canvas, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk and Arqiva to create on-demand TV. Meek will step down from his consulting job at Ingenious Media. There’s been talk that Orange, the French mobile phone company, may join …