Sky TV has lifted its 2021 earnings guidance for a second time, citing higher than expected growth in its direct satellite customer base, cost control, and stronger than anticipated gains in streaming - particularly from its Neon service, recently enlarged by its merger with Lightbox (formerly owned by Spark).
The pay-TV broadcaster now expects its full-year operating earnings to fall between $140m-$155m, and net profit of between $20m and $30m.
Sky shares jumped 9 per cent to 16.3c on the news, albeit off a low base; the stock is still down 64 per cent for the year.
In a market filing, Sky said it had delivered six consecutive months of growth in direct satellite customers (not including reseller subscribers), driven by an improvement in Financial Year 2021 year-to-date annualised churn (net customer turnover) to 12.2 per cent, down from 13 per cent in FY20, and 15 per cent in FY19.
The increases come on top of a forecast bump issued on September 10, when Sky credited the earlier-than-expected resumption of top-tier sport for its brighter outlook - which it said could also see its dividend return in FY2022.
A move into the mobile market is to follow as Sky takes the battle to streaming insurgent Spark's own turf.
A new Sky box is also on the way, which will support 4K (ultra high definition) video, and let Sky subscribers install Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other third-party apps (maybe including Spark Sport as Spark and Sky compete fiercely in some areas but co-operate in others, such as Spark's new Spark Sport-Sky Sport bundle).
Sky shares closed yesterday at 15c, with neither the huge gains or dives of other stocks related to Covid on the vaccine news - such as Netflix, which dropped 9 per cent - perhaps because things balance out for the pay-TV. Fewer people could now turn to entertainment streams as society opens up, but the landscape will also get easier for sports.
"The last few months have reinforced the 'power of our bundle' and our ability to offer a one-stop-shop," Sky chief executive Martin Stewart said this morning.
"We are looking forward to making life even better for our satellite customers when we add Sky Broadband to the mix in early 2021."
While Pfizer's encouraging vaccine news has generally buoyed stocks, Sky's upgrade came with the proviso that everything could be off the table if Covid took a turn for the worse.
That was then
Sky made a net loss of $156.8m for its 2020 financial year after taking a $177.5m goodwill impairment.
Total subscribers grew as streaming gains outweighed satellite customer losses, although the average streaming customer paid far less per month ($19.80) than the average decoder-toting subscriber ($82.08), leading to sinking revenue and profit overall for FY2020.