BT has reported strong demand for fibre broadband lines in Q1, but growth in its pay-TV business has slowed.
Group revenues were down 2 per cent on last year to £4.4 billion (€5.5bn), with only the consumer division posting growth. Adjusted pre-tax profits were up 7 per cent to £638 million.
BT TV added just 5,000 customers in the quarter, because some 35,000 inactive set top box owners were removed from the numbers.
Excluding inactive customers, the rate of net new subscribers has slowed to 40,000, the lowest rate for five quarters. The end of the football season is partly to blame, with viewers waiting until August to sign up for sport, but growth is well below the peak of 70,000 new signings in the quarter ending September last year, just after the launch of BT Sport. The sports channels have an estimated 5 million viewers, because BT gives its the channels away for free to broadband customers, and because Virgin Media homes can tune in at no cost if they already pay for Sky Sports.
The number of customers who pay BT for television is lower, and has just reached 1.007 million subscribers. This is a little behind TalkTalk which now has 1.1 million customers.
However, revenues at BT’s consumer division, which houses its pay-TV service, grew 10 per cent year on year, with high demand for the faster speeds offered by fibre broadband. BT added 104,000 broadband customers in the quarter, a 64 per cent share of the overall broadband market growth in the quarter.
BT Sport had a strong quarter with continued growth in the residential subscriber base. We now have more than 19,000 pubs, clubs, hotels and other commercial premises signed up to BT Sport.
BT’s fibre network passes more than 20 million premises, and so far 3 million homes and businesses have signed up for the faster internet service – giving a 15 per cent take-up rate. A total of 2.3 million are taking fibre from BT, while the balance have signed up via TalkTalk, Sky and other broadband providers which use its network.
Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive, commenting on the results, said: “We have made a good start to the year. We have delivered growth in underlying revenue excluding transit and in profit before tax, and free cash flow was strong.”
“Our fibre broadband network now covers more than twenty million premises. We are passing over 70,000 additional premises each week and demand is strong with more than three million already signed up. We have announced a further 2,500 new jobs in recent months to support our strategic investments in fibre and customer service.”
“I’m excited by the launch of BT One Phone for the business market as well as our other mobility plans. We’ll say more on these later this financial year. The second season of BT Sport is about to start with a great line-up of content and it will continue to be free with BT Broadband. We are building on solid foundations and I am confident we will deliver on our strategy.”