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BSkyB reports huge subscriber rise

BSkyB has reported a huge boost in subscribers and narrowed its losses for the year thanks to the collapse of its biggest rival, ITV Digital.
The company revealed it is now making £347 a year for every subscriber, more than three times the BBC licence fee and 11% up on last year's figure of £313.
BSkyB said it had signed up 214,000 new subscribers in the fourth quarter, well up on the 171,000 it signed up in the previous three months, taking its total number of subscribers to 6.1 million.
Tony Ball, the chief executive of BSkyB, said the figures meant Sky was well on track to meet its targets of 7 million subscribers and revenues of £400 per subscriber by 2005.
The boost came in a traditionally quiet period for new sign-ups and many of the gains are likely to be from former ITV Digital customers who were cut off when the company collapsed in May.
Difficulties at cash-strapped cable companies NTL and Telewest are also likely to have helped.
BSkyB reported a pre-tax loss of just £22m before goodwill and exceptional items, down from £214m last year.
The company also said churn - the percentage of subscribers that leave - remained largely stable on the previous year at 10.5%, one of the lowest rates among European pay TV broadcasters.
The collapse of ITV Digital has also helped BSkyB, which is 36% owned by News Corp, to move into digital terrestrial broadcasting.
It teamed up with the BBC and Crown Castle International, which operates broadcast transmitters, to win the licences freed from ITV Digital earlier this month.
And it also picked up the rights to broadcast Football League matches after ITV Digital was forced to abandon its contract with the league.
BSkyB shares rose by more than 5% on the news to 623p.
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