BT Group Plc said first-quarter earnings rose 1 percent as the biggest U.K. Internet provider’s rights to broadcast the most popular soccer matches lured new customers.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the three months ended June were 1.45 billion pounds ($2.26 billion), the London-based company said in a statement Thursday. That matched the average estimate for earnings in a survey of 16 analysts provided by BT.
BT is competing with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky for TV and broadband customers in the U.K. BT has swept up rights for English Premier League and European Champions League soccer matches and starting in August will offer new premium channels, charging customers for more games and starting an ultra-HD channel that will work with so called 4K resolution TVs.
Sky fired back, agreeing to pay 1.39 billion pounds a year for three years of Premier League rights in February, pushing the cash raised in the auction up to a record 5.14 billion pounds for rights to broadcast live English soccer.
Sky’s also called on market regulator Ofcom to investigate BT’s role in the broadband market. Ofcom is looking into BT’s Openreach division, a regulated unit that sells broadband network access to rivals, as part of an industrywide review.
Some of BT’s competitors are calling on Ofcom to split Openreach from the company to make the market more competitive. Ofcom has said it will consider a split as well as heavier regulation around the quality of service BT offers and the prices it charges in its review.
BT is also in the process of buying EE Ltd., a 12.5 billion-pound deal that will give it access to the country’s biggest mobile operator. The acquisition is waiting for regulator approval and is expected to close early next year.
BT rose 1.7 percent to 473.5 pence in London trading Wednesday. The stock has added 18 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 39.5 billion pounds.