LONDON: BSkyB, the UK's sole satellite TV provider, has unveiled stronger than predicted customer growth in the first quarter, boosted by consumers' enthusiam for its See, Speak, Surf service bundles.

The NewsCorp-controlled company, led by Murdoch clan scion James (pictured), reported a net 'direct-to-home' customer gain of 51,000, up 28% year-on-year to 8.49 million and beating analysts' expectations of around 30,000.

The Q1 numbers show a profit of £142 million ($283m; 208m), slipping 6% from £151m in the comparable period a year earlier.

The figures reflect the cost of rolling out Sky's new broadband service, which had 553,000 customers by April 29, up from 259,000 at the end of January. Sky is aiming to have upward of 700,000 high-speed online customers by the end of June.

Comments Murdoch: "We are delivering on our multi-product strategy and customers are responding in record numbers."

The media company's robust performance, which sent shares skyward, will come as a blow to its bitter rival, UK cable monopoly Virgin Media (formerly NTL), with which it is in legal dispute.

The pair fell out earlier this year after failing to agree on carriage costs for Sky's basic channels, which were subsequently withdrawn from the Virgin platform [WARC News: 02-Mar-07].

The satellite company is also under regulatory scrutiny over its acquisition of a 17.9% stake in the Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster ITV [WARC News: 20-Nov-06].

However, Murdoch is firmly accentuating the positive: "We have dedicated teams dealing with the litigation and regulation issues. Right now our total focus is on the business and continuing to grow the business."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff