Viasat added an additional 21,000 premium subscribers in the fourth quarter, benefitting in part from IPTV distribution, though its DTH business also played a part in the wake of analogue switch-off in Norway and Denmark.
Net sales increased by 6% on the year to SEK 4,076 million (€406.85m) – up 4% year on year at constant exchange rates. However, a charge on Bulgaria’s Nova Televizia of SEK 3,352 million took MTG into a fourth quarter loss of SEK -2,722 million and an annual pre-tax loss of SEK 1,625 million.
“We have continued to generate healthy sales growth and reported our highest ever fourth quarter and full year sales in 2009, despite the economic recession and declining advertising markets across Europe,” said MTG President and CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht. “The Scandinavian free-TV, Nordic pay-TV, Emerging Market pay-TV and Internet Retailing businesses all delivered sales growth and higher profits in 2009 than in 2008, whilst our emerging market free-TV businesses were profitable again on a combined basis in the fourth quarter.”
In particular the Scandinavian free-TV operations, including the ever-popular TV3 reported accelerated sales growth in the quarter.
The number of subscribers with the ViasatPlus personal video recorder also increased year-on-year from 115,000 to 141,000 as of December 31, 2009. The number of HDTV subscribers more than doubled year on year – now standing at 106,000 – an increase of 24,000 on the quarter.
MTG’s Emerging Markets business continues to suffer amid poor economic conditions and the accompanying lower levels of advertising expenditure. Sales in the region were down 14% year on year in the fourth quarter and 3% for the full year. Bulgaria’s Nova Televizia was among the hardest hit with sales down 19% year on year over the 12-month period.
Sales for the MTG’s free-TV operations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were down 38% year on year to SEK 119 million in the fourth quarter and 28% to SEK 439 million for the full year. In the Czech Republic sales were down 14% year on year to SEK 294 million.
On the upside, Viasat’s pay-TV operations in the emerging market, both through DTH and the distribution of its 11 branded channels, reported sales of 11% year on year in the fourth quarter and 33% for the full year. Viasat’s Baltic and Ukrainian DTH satellite pay-TV platforms added 9,000 net new premium subscribers in the fourth quarter and the wholesale mini-pay business added 1.2 million subscriptions quarter on quarter and 4.3 million subscriptions year on year in the fourth quarter to break back through the 40 million mark.