BSkyB has confirmed that it will unveil a tranche of digital television
services in the UK in the autumn of 1997 and is in talks with the Virgin
Group about the launch of Virgin-branded satellite channels.
The plans were revealed as Sky announced an increase in profits of 71
per cent to pounds 178 million for the nine months to the end of March.
Advertising accounted for around 11 per cent of total profits and ad
revenue was up 24 per cent on last year.
Sam Chisholm, the chief executive and managing director of BSkyB, said
that the results meant that ‘the company is strongly positioned to take
advantage of the further opportunity offered by digital technology in
the UK and mainland Europe’.
BSkyB has now reached agreement with the satellite operator, Societe
Europeene des Satellites, about a new satellite due to launch in autumn
next year. Sky will take around 14 transponders on the satellite and
these will be reserved for the new digital service in the UK.
The transponders will be used for a range of digital channels, with the
aim of encouraging existing Sky viewers to upgrade to digital receiving
equipment as soon as possible.
However, the extra programming is likely to come from a range of
suppliers looking for outlets for their material or a new means of
investing in television. BSkyB has already confirmed that it is in talks
with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group about extending the Virgin brand
into TV programming.
BSkyB is also said to be holding initial discussions with the BBC about
a joint satellite TV venture.