Sky and Sony Pictures Television have signed a new multi-year agreement giving the News Corp-controlled group first window rights to the studio’s new and classic movies in the UK and Ireland. BSkyB made the announcement this morning as it reported better-than-expected fiscal first half results. Operating profit for the six months ended December 31 was up 8% to £647M ($1.02B) versus £601M ($951M) in the last comparable period. The leading satcaster noted this morning that, “In a tough economic environment, more customers are taking more products and spending more money with Sky.” In the three months to December 31, the company added 615,000 products and 88,000 new subscribers for a total base of 10.7M. The period saw particular growth of weekly On Demand downloads, up 150%, and users of the recently-launched Sky Go service also increased by 46% to 3.1M. Chairman Jeremy Darroch commented, “Although we expect the consumer environment in 2013 to remain challenging, we have a strong set of plans for the year ahead. We will keep getting better on screen, further improve our products and services for customers and maintain our focus on efficiency. The business is in good shape to continue to deliver for customers and shareholders.”
The new Sony deal follows two other major renewals, with Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal, in the first half. Upcoming titles under the Sony pact include Men In Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man and Django Unchained. The films will be available about six months after their theatrical runs and Sky will retain exclusivity for at least a year. The classic titles will also be exclusive for at least a year while they’re on the service. Sky and SPT have also agreed a non-exclusive deal for pay-per-view movies. In sports, Sky has added live rugby union matches from Ireland, France and Italy, more than doubling its schedule of Autumn Internationals starting next year. Sky has also been on a push to invest more in original programming and has increased hours of original content by 70% compared to the same period last year.