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Game of Thrones boosts Sky earnings

European pay-TV giant Sky, facing a possible takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, announced Thursday a surge in subscribers on keen demand for cult US series Game of Thrones.

Sky’s subscriber base swelled by a 160,000 new customers in the three months to late September, up 51 percent on a year earlier, it said in a trading update.

Revenues grew five percent to £3.3 billion ($4.4 billion, 3.7 billion euros) over the same period.

Underlying profit, which strips out items such as tax and interest payments, jumped 11 percent to £582 million.

“We’ve had a strong start to our new financial year with good revenue growth and excellent profit growth,” said chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

He added: “Game of Thrones has become the most watched series ever on Sky.”

The London-listed group has exclusive rights to US broadcasting giant HBO’s television catalogue, which includes the current season of the award-winning show.

Later on Thursday, shareholders voted in favour of the re-election of Murdoch’s son James as chairman.

Some investor groups had expressed unease over him serving longer, in light of James being also chief executive of 21st Century Fox — which is seeking to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own.

However, investors voted more than 78 percent in favour of his re-election at an annual general meeting at Sky’s London headquarters later on Thursday.

One angry shareholder argued that the deal would not go through if James Murdoch remained in his post.

“If everything remains the same (on the board) you have no chance of the deal going through,” the shareholder, who declined to be named, told the meeting.

“There’s nothing wrong with Mr Murdoch — but it is because of the name.”

Meanwhile, the takeover of Sky is being held up by a UK investigation into the proposed deal worth £11.7 billion.

Regulators on Tuesday said the probe would assess Rupert Murdoch’s influence on Britain’s political landscape.

Overall, Britain’s Competitions and Markets Authority will assess the impact of the Murdoch family’s proposed deal on both broadcasting standards and media plurality.

The CMA will seek to prevent “any one media owner, or voice, having too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”.

The regulator’s probe will scrutinise the ability of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) to “control or influence editorial and commercial decisions” at Sky News, a 24-hour news channel broadcast from London.

It will assess also the current state of plurality within the UK media, and the commitment to accuracy in newspapers controlled by the MFT’s News Corp division, including The Times and The Sun.

AFP

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