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Sky connects millions more telly and broadband punters to on-demand Box Sets

Sky’s latest financial figures show that it’s continuing to draw in TV and broadband customers with offers of on-demand TV content. 

As in the past, Sky says that its TV growth has mainly been driven by the lure of catch-up Sky Box Set content, with Sons of Anarchy, Entourage and True Blood being particularly popular. 

In the last 12 months, 2.3 million Sky TV customers have chosen to connect their Sky+HD boxes to the Internet, giving them to access said Box Sets along with ahead-of-DVD-release movie titles like Fast and Furious 7 and Home from the Sky Store. 

The number of Sky TV subscribers who’ve now hooked their TV boxes to the web is now 9.6 million, an increase of 2.3 million from a year ago. 

Related: Sky Store dominates Fifty Shades of Grey on-demand downloadsSky Store continues to be a money-spinner for Sky, with revenues up 50 per cent year on year and over a million unique customers using the ‘reverse UltraViolet’ Buy & Keep service, where Sky sends you a DVD hardcopy of your Sky Store purchases in the post. 

Back in April this year, Sky Store Buy & Keep rolled out to other non-Sky TV platforms including Now TV Roku and YouView boxes, so based on Sky’s figures today, it’s unclear how much of an impact these extra platforms have had on that. 

As well as this, Sky Atlantic, one of the few channels that remains exclusive to Sky, brought in 70 per cent more views in the UK and Ireland than it did a year ago. New episodes of Game of Thrones might be off the airwaves until next year, but the old cliche about content being king is true.

Sky’s group chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “We have made a strong start to the year with customers responding well to the quality and breadth of our content, products and services. 

“As we continue to place customers right at the heart of our business, we are focused on offering the very best content at the same time as anticipating customers’ evolving needs, delivering the programmes that they love across multiple platforms and devices.”

While all this is positive stuff for Sky who notably lost broadcast rights to UEFA Champions League to chief rivals BT, it remains impossible to gauge how well Sky is doing in terms of subscriber numbers. Since the merger of Sky’s operations in the UK and Ireland with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia, the company hasn’t broken down customer figures on a region-by-region basis.

That said, we can have a stab at where the number stands based on the last time Sky posted TV subscriber numbers for the UK (10,732,000 as of Q1 2014) and the subsequent quarterly gains for the UK it’s posted since then.

  • Q2 2014 – 202,000
  • Q3 2014 – 94,000
  • Q4 2014 – 113,000
  • Q1 2015 – 43,000

Supposing for argument’s sake there was no churn (business speak for customers leaving due to things like price rises) over the last 12 months, we’d estimate that the total number of Sky TV punters in the UK stands at 11.2 million.

Back in April we put Sky’s broadband customer base at 5.53 million and since then, Sky announced it added 96,000 in July (Q4 2014) and now it’s added another 133,000.

With overall churn for the UK put at -1.1 per cent across all Sky products, it’s impossible to put a finger on an exact figure for broadband customers alone. At best, we can say it’s in the 5.75 million ballpark and our back-of-a-beermat calculations should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

Again, there’s no breakdown of how many of Sky’s customers are taking old-school up to 17Mbps ADSL broadband and how many are opting for up to 38Mbps and up to 76Mbps Sky Fibre FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) products.

Brief mention is made in the results of Sky’s ongoing joint venture with TalkTalk and CityFibre up in York, where the first few customers have been connected to a bleeding edge up to 940Mbps service, using CityFibre’s network to deliver a full fat FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) product. 

Unlike FTTC, there’s no copper in the last mile and bandwidth doesn’t degrade over distance in the same way. 

For the moment, Sky’s using BT’s access network Openreach to deliver ADSL and FTTC products to customers. 

The elephant in the room here is telecoms regulator Ofcom’s upcoming market review, which could see Openreach split off from the BT Group entirely and become a separate limited company. 

Sky had a little bit to say about the review in its results here: “In [our] submission, we outline a series of growing problems in the sector including… the risk of diminishing competition in the provision of broadband services [and] the inadequate quality of service delivered by BT’s Openreach division… the level and type of investment in the UK’s fixed line communications infrastructure, at a time when fibre-to-the-premise networks are being rolled out in other countries around the world. 

“We believe that BT’s vertical integration – the combination of the UK’s largest retailer of fixed line communications services, with the operator of the UK’s only ubiquitous fixed line access network – lies at the heart of these issues.”

Sky’s been less vocal about its achievements in York that TalkTalk; while Dido Harding has been keen to talk up the potential of a partnership with CityFibre, which could see 10 million UK homes passed with ultrafast FTTP. It just so happens that BT reckons it could reach the same number of homes in a similar timespan with it’s G.fast and Fibre on Demand products.

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