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Virgin Media to add HD channels as subs rise

Virgin Media

UK cable operator Virgin Media has revealed that it is in negotiations with several broadcasters with a view to launching at least five new HD channels during the first quarter of the year. The announcement came as the operator revealed it added 30,600 TV subscribers during the first quarter of 2009, giving a total of 3.65 million at the end of March.

The operator reduced churn to a record low of 1.1% during the quarter, which it put down to an increase in VOD usage and DVR subscriptions. Video-on-demand usage increased during the quarter, with 53% of customers making use of the service, up from 46% during the same period last year. Virgin Media also reported the highest ever average monthly VOD views of 55 million per month during the first three months of the year. Subscribers to the V Plus DVR service reached 611,900 at the end of March, compared with 521,500 at the end of December.

Triple-play penetration reached a record high of 57% during the quarter, up from 51.3% a year earlier, while ARPU increased slightly year-on-year to £42.29 (€47.45). The company made 47,300 net broadband additions, 40,000 less than a year earlier, but increased the number of subscribers to its top two broadband tiers (20Mbps and 50Mbps) by 48% to 416,200. During the first quarter, 75% of broadband subscribers took a service of 10Mbps or higher, compared with 19% a year earlier. The total broadband subscriber base stood at 3.977 million at the end of March. Virgin Media said it expected to make its 50Mbps service available to all broadband customers during the third quarter of the year.

Overall, Virgin Media added 148,400 RGUs during the quarter to a total of 12.56 million.

The operator reported revenues of £935.7m for the quarter, down slightly on £947.3m reported a year earlier. Net loss widened to £154m from a net loss of £104.4m last year while operating income was £13m, up from a loss of £1.9m a year earlier.