Well-Performing Sky Putting 3D Before VOD

It said last year that it would add a true pull-VOD service to its TV options in 2010 – but Sky gave no progress update on Thursday, as it nevertheless reported three percent better August-December profit of £401 million on 10 percent higher revenue of £2.87 billion.

Listing “innovations for 2010”, it said it will start offering only HD boxes to new customers from today and will start Europe’s first 3D channel this Spring, kicked off by a live public broadcast trial this coming weekend. It also confirmed a total three million downloads of its iPhone apps.

Though far larger, satcaster Sky is trailing cable-delivered Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) on the TV VOD front, so has sought carriage for its Sky Player on boxes like Xbox 360, FetchTV and mobile. For now, it looks like it’s concentrating more on jazzing up linear TV pictures than meeting the UK’s growing appetite for on-demand viewing (HD is doubtless a need worth meeting, but Sky is taking a big bet on 3D)…

But the migration to all-HD boxes will be an important step along both roads – they pack an Ethernet connection that could be used to pipe on-demand programmes from customers’ broadband internet routers. And anyway, Sky’s pause-and-rewind-live-TV Sky+ feature is remarkable all on its own.

— Broadband sign-ups continued to slow, from 163,000 to 101,000.
— Sky+HD sign-ups grew from 188,000 to 482,000.
— Telephone sign-ups fell from 139,000 to 130,000

From the analysts’ call:
On the subject of Ofcom’s investigation into wholesale pricing for its premium-TV channels: Jeremy Darroch, the CEO of BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), appeared confident that BSkyB would get its way in the end, noting that the regulator has already been examing the pricing for over three years and found “no evidence of excess pricing”: “We believe we have got good arguments for a stay to the deal.” (BT (NYSE: BT) in particular is lobbying for the regulator to force BSkyB to bring down the prices on channels for movies and premium sports, for it to offer the channels as part of its BT Vision pay-TV service.)

On building out new fibre networks, a case where Sky is actually working with BT: Analysts kept picking at the idea of a speed race between BSkyB and other broadband ISPs. BT has announced plans to roll out a 40Mbps network to 10 million homes by 2012 and is offering the service as a retail product called Infinity. “We