Game Of Thrones popularity lifts Sky revenues

The popularity of Game Of Thrones has helped boost broadcasting giant Sky as it posted surging revenues and customer numbers.

Sky - currently the subject of an £11.7bn (€13bn) takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox - said it added 160,000 new customers in its first quarter, which marks a 51% rise on a year earlier.

The group said fantasy drama Game Of Thrones was now its "most-watched series ever", while it also hailed home-grown series Riviera after it notched up 20 million downloads.

Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said the group's investment in production was "delivering", with customer viewing to Sky pay channels up 10% year-on-year.

The group shrugged off pressure on consumer and advertising spending to post a 5% rise in revenues to £3.3bn (€3.68bn) for the first quarter, while underlying earnings jumped 11% higher to £582m (€649m).

Mr Darroch said: "We've had a strong start to our new financial year with good revenue growth and excellent profit growth as investments we've made come through."

He added: "Looking ahead, despite the uncertainty in the broader consumer environment, we remain on track with our plans and enter the busy second quarter trading period focused on delivering our clear strategy for growth."

The update comes as Sky chairman James Murdoch faces shareholders on Thursday amid investor unrest over his independence and concerns on pay plans for top bosses.

Mr Murdoch is chief executive of Fox, which is attempting to seize control of the 61% of Sky it does not already own.

Shareholder advisory groups - including Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), Glass Lewis and Pirc - have called on investors to vote against his re-election at Sky's annual general meeting and also to rebel against what they claim are potentially "excessive" pay plans.

Sky confirmed in its annual report last month that chief executive Jeremy Darroch's total annual pay packet more than trebled to £16.3m (€18.1m) last year despite annual profits being hit by the cost of broadcasting live Premier League football.

The Fox takeover has been in the spotlight this week as the UK's Ofcom boss Sharon White and British Culture Secretary Karen Bradley appeared before British MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Ms Bradley said today that the final decision on the deal would be based on evidence and not "personal emotion or feelings".

Ms White gave evidence to the committee on Tuesday, when she told MPs the regulator found "extremely disturbing" behaviour at Fox News when looking at the bid.

Ms Bradley referred the bid to the Competition and Markets Authority last month for a full-blown investigation, with the competition watchdog set to report back with its final recommendations next March.


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