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Departing Harding says YouView upgrade benefiting pay TV uptake

Dido Harding

Dido Harding

Along with the news that Dido Harding is to step down as CEO of the company after seven years, UK service provider TalkTalk has revealed that it lost 31,000 TV customers in its fiscal third quarter, following changes to its fixed-line proposition in October.

On a more positive note, Harding said that the introduction of the new-generation YouView platform was leading to stronger uptake of pay TV services.

TalkTalk also said that over 45% of new customers were taking its fibre offering and over 40% chose to take a paid-for TV set-top box.

Fibre customers were up by 74,000 in the quarter, with 12% of the 516,000 re-contracting customers taking the fibre offering.

Overall, fixed broadband customers fell by 42,000, although TalkTalk did add 75,000 mobile customers in the three months to December.

Presenting the results on a conference call, Harding said that the new fixed pricing plan was “doing well” with strong re-contracting rates and good take-up of pay TV.

“We are already live with the next generation YouView platform and we are delighted with it. You see greater take up of pay on the new user interface of pay on the new UI,” she said, adding that TalkTalk was targeting a primarily free-to-air market with a light pay TV offering.

“The market we are in is broadly people upgrading from Freeview. This is not the market that Sky and Virgin Media has been. What they are doing is not what is driving our TV business. We are making our own weather.”

Harding said that underlying churn had improved as the impact of the removal of discounts in October fell away.

TalkTalk chairman Charles Dunstone said that one of the main objectives for the coming year was to grow the retail base, and said he wanted to focus on “growth rather than price increases”.

Revenue fell from £459 million (€537 million) to £435 million year-on-year.

Harding will step down as CEO in May. The timing will enable current non-executive chairman Dunstone to take on an executive chairman role after stepping down as chairman of Dixons Carphone, the company he founded. On the call, the said he would not be full-time in the role, but it would be his major activity.

Tristia Harrison, currently managing director, TalkTalk Consumer, will take on the CEO role, with Charles Bligh, currently managing director of the business arm, named as COO.

Harding said on the call that she planned to focus on public sector roles in the next stage of her career.