'I'm here for long-term'—Sky CEO Murdoch

BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch has sought to quell speculation about his future following the surprise resignation of his brother Lachlan as deputy chief operating officer of their father Rupert Murdoch's media empire News Corporation, which owns 36% of BSkyB.

James, now regarded Rupert Murdoch's heir-apparent, said it was his "intention and hope" to stay as Sky CEO "for the long term". In a webcast interview with the Cantos financial news network, he added: "I'm fully engaged in the business; the team is fully engaged in the business, and we have a lot of work to do over a number of years. So I'd certainly hope to be a part of that."

Later at an analysts' presentation on Sky's full-year results, Murdoch put a strong emphasis on new products and services driving continued subscriber and profits growth.

Murdoch said the company's eagerly awaited launch of high definition television (HDTV) would take place "early in 2006", offering subscribers a package of HD channels at a price still be announced. "The quality is amazing, it just looks fantastic," said Murdoch.

Sky's HD box would contain a personal video recorder (PVR) with substantial storage (the exact amount has yet to be revealed), plus an Ethernet connection and two USB ports.

Murdoch outlined changes set to be made to Sky's electronic programme guide (EPG). The revamp will retain the EPG's familiar look and feel, but will make it easier to find channels and offer parents more controls over programming they want their children to be able to access from live channels and programmes stored on Sky+.

Murdoch said Sky was working on a mobile phone version of Sky's EPG which would allow subscribers to programme their Sky+ boxes remotely.

Sky's results, unveiled earlier this morning (see story link, right margin), showed advertising revenues increased by 5% on the year to £329m while betting revenues soared 37% to £261m. Murdoch said betting revenues could soon overtake advertising as the company's second-largest revenue stream, and gave analysts and investors a glimpse of Sky's planned new interactive poker channel, Sky Vegas Live.

Murdoch further unveiled a new wireless audio receiver which allows users to listen to digital radio or television channels in any room of their home. The device, dubbed the 'Sky Gnome', is due to launch in October.

It is compatible with all Sky set-top boxes and has a typical range in the home or garden of 30 metres. Users will be able to listen to more than 80 digital radio channels, including all major UK national radio stations, and any of the television channels in their Sky package without paying an additional subscription fee. In addition, Sky+ customers will be able to use the Gnome to listen to pre-recorded programmes on their Sky+ planner. Pricing has yet to be announced.

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