Modern Times Group (MTG) ended the first quarter with 973,000 premium pay-TV subscribers in the Nordic region, down from the 982,000 and 978,000 posted three months and a year earlier respectively.
While the premium satellite figure continued to fall (514,000, versus 526,000 and 553,000 three months and a year respectively), those via third party networks increased to a total of 459,000 (from 456,000 and 425,000 respectively). Meanwhile, the basic satellite subscriber total continued to fall, with the number as of the end of Q1 at 31,000.
Premium satellite ARPU in Q1 was SEK5,220 (€560.1), compared to SEK5,044 in the corresponding quarter in 2014.
In emerging markets, the satellite subscriber total as of the end of Q1 was 290,000, compared to 358,000 a year earlier. This was in large part due to the closure of the DTH platform Raduga TV in Russia at the end of 2014. On the other hand, the number of mini-pay subscriptions rose from 94,837 to 136,969 in the year to March 31.
MTG notes that in the Nordics, sales growth at constant FX was driven by the expansion of Viaplay. In emerging markets, figures were boosted in the mini-pay channel business by the consolidation of Trace, which added 42 million subscriptions year-on-year and 6 million quarter-on-quarter.
MTG as a whole had net sales of SEK3,701 million in Q1, compared to SEK3,597 million in the corresponding quarter in 2014. Total EBIT was SEK415 million (SEK301 million) and net income SEK318 million (SEK159 million).
Commenting on the results, Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, president and CEO, said: “Record Q1 sales & stable underlying profits Sales were up in the quarter to record levels as enhanced efficiency levels in our traditional businesses continued to fuel the growth of our digital businesses, and even though last year’s performance was boosted by the Olympics. Profits were stable compared to last year when excluding the net positive effect of the restructuring in Sweden and a copyright settlement in Scandinavia, and this is despite significant FX headwinds and continued investments in our digital products. The growth in online viewing is more than compensating for lower linear channel viewing levels in the Nordic region, and our combined Nordic TV businesses grew their sales, and profits were stable despite the FX impacts and when excluding the abovementioned net positive effect. Our Emerging Market free-TV operations generated higher sales and improved profitability in seven out of eight markets as we took shares in generally stable or growing markets. Our Emerging Market pay-TV operations continue to be impacted by the geopolitical crisis and Russia’s ban on advertising on most pay-TV channels. Nice, MTG Radio and MTGx reported stable sales and lower losses on a combined basis”.
Looking to the future, he added: We have now almost finalized the annual upfront agreements for our free-TV businesses, with price increases in most markets reflecting TV’s unique reach and superior return on investment. Viaplay continues to grow its subscriber base and usage levels, while our channel packages are more broadly available than ever before. We have also added new programming content or extended valuable existing rights to ensure that we have the best possible entertainment offerings in each market. We continue to face adverse FX headwinds that are inflating our US dollar content costs in the Nordics particularly, and also reducing the results from our Russian ruble denominated operations. We are taking actions across the Group to offset these effects as much as possible”.