BSkyB profits rise as customer numbers increase

Man Utd v Man City Sky said the 2011-12 Premier League season generated average audiences that were up 12%

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Annual profits at BSkyB have risen 17% after the satellite broadcaster's football coverage helped to boost customer numbers.

BSkyB reported pre-tax profits of £1.2bn for the year to 30 June 2012.

The company gained 312,000 new customers over the year to bring its total customer base to 10.6 million.

Meanwhile, ITV has forecast a sharp fall in advertising revenues this summer as most analysts expect viewers to focus on the Olympics on the BBC.

ITV expects advertising revenues to be down 10% in July, 11% lower in August, and between flat and down 5% in September.

Shares rose much as 7% earlier after ITV said that in the first six months of 2012, its advertising revenues had risen 3% and its pre-tax profit had increased by 15% to £235m. BSkyB's share price settled down to 3.14% at the close.

'Bold buyback'

BSkyB said that annual revenues rose 3% to £6.8bn, adding that its Premier League average audiences were up 12% year-on-year.

The company also said it would return an additional £500m to shareholders via a share buyback.

Manoj Ladwa, head of trading at TJ Markets, said the results were "impressive".

"Investors will be encouraged by the addition of 57,000 net customers in the fourth quarter and the bold share buyback scheme," he said.

BSkyB also said it would invest £30m in its new internet TV service Now TV, which launched on 17 July. The service gives customers, who do not have to be Sky subscribers, access to content on a pay-as-you-go or contract basis.

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Chief executive Jeremy Darroch told the BBC that he did not think the new service would hits Sky's core subscription service.

"I think [Now TV] is going to be very complementary to what we do. We've always been a business that's been around broader choice."

Share movement

He also said that he did not think that the failed bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to take full ownership of BSkyB had affected the company.

News Corp, which owns 39% of BSkyB, had wanted to buy the remainder of the firm, but withdrew its bid in July 2011 in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at its UK newspaper group News International.

Mr Darroch said: "We're an independent company. We happen to have a common shareholder."

He added that BSkyB's share price, which had tumbled in the months after the withdrawn bid, had outperformed the FTSE 100 this year and over the past four years

"Inevitably in a bid situation there's a bit of bid premium [that] comes into the stock and that moves away, but I don't think that masks the underlying performance of the business," he said.

The company's shares were up 2.6% on Thursday after its results announcement.

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