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New 90% of UK homes now multichannel
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New 90% of UK homes now multichannel - 07-April-2009, 11:10

90% of UK homes now multichannel

Chris Forrester

UK broadcasting regulator Ofcoms latest set of numbers show that (at Dec 31) some 88.9% of all UK homes now have multichannel TV, at least to the primary set in the home. This is up 0.7% on Sept 30 last year, and 2.4% y-o-y. As far as second sets were concerned, more than 60% of these have also been converted to full multichannel use, up 11 percentage points in a year. And pay-TV is still steaming ahead in popularity.

Ofcom said that 49.5% of British households have a pay satellite or cable service on their main television set, up from 48.6% in Q3/2008. Some 39.3% have subscription-free digital services - either via digital satellite or through their existing aerial - while just 11.2% have old-style analogue TV, which is fast nearing the end of its natural life.

BSkyBs HDTV transmissions proved to be the fastest growing product, adding a record 188,000 subscribers during the pre-Christmas quarter, bringing its total to 780,000 HD subscribers.

A further 521,000 cable customers subscribed to Virgin Media's V+ service which allows viewers to watch programs in HD, while sales of BBC/ITV freesat HD receivers had reached 172,000 by the end of 2008. HD will also begin to become available terrestrially from the end of this year with nationwide coverage expected by the end of digital switchover in 2012.
Q4 saw the highest sales of DTT enabled equipment in any quarter, with almost 4.5m units sold, up by 5.9% on Q4 2007. This was largely driven by record sales of IDTVs during the run-up to Christmas, with nearly 3.1m units sold, up by almost 34% year on year.
Freeview set-top boxes accounted for over 1.4m sales, down 27.0% on last year. Over the past year around 12.5m DTT units have been sold, compared to around 10.6m in the previous year.
DTT-only households (free and pay) rose by around 85,000 in Q4, with over 9.8 million homes now relying solely on DTT for multichannel viewing.
Q4 sales data for BBC/ITV Freesat show that unit sales had reached almost 233,000 by the end of December, up from 108,000 units in Q3. According to consumer research results for Q4, around 600,000 homes claimed to be using some form of free-to-view digital satellite.
Approaching 9.5m (37%) homes received satellite TV services (either pay or free-to-view) by the end of 2008. Pay satellite homes accounted for almost 8.9m (94%) of these with free-to-view making up the remainder.
Almost 40% of households (around 10.1m) now have some form of free-to-view digital television, with 36.9% using non-pay DTT and 2.3% free-to-view satellite on their main set.
Research results for Q4 show that cable was the primary viewing platform in 12.8% of homes, broadly in line with the Q3 figure. Separately, Virgin Media reported net additions of almost 44,500 new subscribers, taking their total TV customer base to over 3.6m. Digital cable added over 61,100 subscribers in the quarter (including conversions from analogue cable) and now accounts for around 96% of all cable television customers.
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