DTT comes of age in Europe

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 

  • Over 500 channels available on DTT platforms
  • Public service, generalist, news and cultural channels play prominent role on DTT
  • DTT roll-out will have taken place in 23 EU countries by the end 2009

STRASBOURG — Recent data from the MAVISE TV database, developed for the DG Communication of the European Commission by the European Audiovisual Observatory, shows the continued expansion of television channels in the European (EU 27 + Croatia and Turkey) television market. More than 200 new TV channels were launched in 2008. There are now a total of 5587 channels (plus 412 non-European channels) available in the 29 countries.

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) has experienced significant developments in the last year. Six of the 29 countries included in the MAVISE database have already ceased analogue terrestrial transmission. France, Italy, Spain and the UK (four markets with large use of terrestrial television) have reached very high levels of DTT penetration in households and two of these have started regional switch-off of the analogue signals. The third group includes smaller countries with established DTT services. The market will see more rapid development this year with the expected launch of new services in Slovenia, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Poland, Greece, and Slovakia. The number of channels on DTT line-ups in 16 countries are outlined with an indication of where there are also pay-TV services. Currently the services in Malta are Pay-TV only, with FTA services to be launched in 2009.

DTT as a free to air platform plays an important role in the provision of universal service television. The presence of the public service channels (and their important role in the development of DTT) can be seen in the breakdown between public and private channels on the DTT line-ups. On average the capacity used by public service channels on DTT platforms is approximately 25% as compared to 75% for private channels. In comparison, within the entire range of channels available in the 29 countries on all platforms, 7% are public while 93% are private. In Belgium, there are currently only public service offers.

When looking at the types of channels available on the DTT platforms (by genres) there are also some significant differences compared to the entire television market on all platforms. The DTT platforms have a significantly higher percentage of generalist, news, business and cultural channels. There is a lower channel capacity on DTT platforms in comparison to satellite or cable and this has probably led to a clearly higher focus on making available more public service, generalist and news and cultural content. Specialist channels such as sport, cinema and children’s channels are still significant, but other niche channels are much less prominent on the DTT platforms: home shopping, adult channels, weather, religious, minority interest etc. Adult channels are available on DTT platforms in Finland, Netherlands, Estonia, Italy and Lithuania (where pay-DTT services are available). Home shopping channels are included in the line-ups of Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

There is also a difference between smaller and larger markets regarding the number of national and international channels available. The larger countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK have significantly more national and regional channels. In contrast smaller countries such as Estonia, Lithuania and Malta currently rely on international channels for almost 50% of their DTT content.

More: DTT comes of age in the European TV Market