Broadcaster BSkyB added to the pressure on News Corp’s takeover plans by revealing a 26% jump in profits during an “outstanding” half-year.
In a period when the satellite company broke through the 10 million customer mark, BSkyB said turnover rose 15% to £3.2 billion while operating profits hit £520 million for the six months to the end of December.
BSkyB rejected a 700p a share bid proposal from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in the summer and the strong results will add to pressure on the media giant to deliver a sharp hike in any future offer, should it gain regulatory approval.
This week, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was minded to refer News Corp’s bid for the shares in BSkyB it does not already own to the Competition Commission but gave the group more time to deliver undertakings.
The number of Sky customer numbers increased by 140,000 in the final quarter of 2010 as it reported the fastest broadband growth for more than two years and a 68% increase in subscriptions to high definition television.
Almost one in four Sky customers now take all three of TV, broadband and telephone contracts, the company said.
Sky also announced plans to create 1,500 jobs by opening new contact centres across the UK, with a new site in Sheffield the next to open.
A new service, Sky Anywhere, will launch later in the year to allow customers to access Sky programmes on their computers when they are away from their homes, and the service will be supported by the acquisition of public wi-fi operator The Cloud.
Next week, a new channel, Sky Atlantic, will be launched on Sky to screen new series from American channel HBO, as well as the fifth season of award-winning drama Mad Men which was recently poached from the BBC.
Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said he was cautious about 2011 as the Government’s austerity plans begin to bite but added that there was significant potential for long-term growth in the entertainment and communications marketplace.