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BSkyB son also rises as profits double.

Satellite broadcaster BSkyB has doubled profits after hitting a key subscriber target three months early.

The group had set its sights on 315,000 customers using its Sky+ digital TV service by the end of June, but growth since the start of the year meant it now had 322,000 subscribers on its books.

The popularity of the Sky+ boxes, which allow users to pause live TV and record one satellite programme while viewing another, offset slower growth in its direct-to-home service. BSkyB yesterday said it added 66,000 new customers over the past three months to build a digital subscriber base of 7.3 million after cutting back on marketing.

But a new campaign launched at the end of March meant the group remained on track to achieve its target of eight million direct-to-home satellite subscribers by the end of the calendar year.

Pre-tax profits of pounds 371 million for the nine months to March 31 were a significant improvement on the pounds 160 million recorded at the same stage of 2003.

Chief executive James Murdoch said: 'Sky continues to deliver improvement in its financial performance, and remains on track to hit all operational and financial targets.'

Higher prices introduced at the start of January helped BSkyB grow revenues by 16 per cent in the nine-month period to pounds 2.7 billion.

A strong schedule of sports events in the past quarter also lifted the company, with three million viewers tuning in to watch the Champions League quarter-final between Chelsea and Arsenal. Victory for the England cricket team in the West Indies helped BSkyB record some of its best cricket audiences for two years.

Murdoch, son of Rupert, will pick up more than pounds 5 million in pay and bonuses if he meets performance targets.

Shares closed down 31.5p at 621p.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 13, 2004
Words:303
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