UK consumers switch on to HD

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
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An increasing number of TV viewers are switching on to high definition television services, according to new Ofcom research. Ofcom’s latest Digital Progress Report reveals that sales of HD ready TVs reached almost 23 million by the end of 2009. More than 3.3 million TVs were sold during the last quarter of 2009 – of which around 70 per cent were HD ready.

HD subscriptions

The report also reveals that:

  • Sky added 482,000 extra subscribers to its HD service, the highest quarterly additions to date. Total HD subscriptions are now almost 2.1 million, equivalent to around 21 per cent of its customer base (up from 8.4 per cent in Q4 2008).
  • Virgin’s V+ HD service added 112,700 subscribers to reach 862,000 by the end of 2009, equivalent to 23 per cent of its TV subscriber base (up from 14 per cent in Q4 2008).
  • High Definition receivers accounted for 80 per cent of BBC/ITV freesat sales by the end of the quarter, equivalent to around 720,000 sales.

Freeview officially launched its new HD service last week.

HD on Freeview

It features high definition channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel4, as well as Freeview’s existing standard definition channels.

S4C will launch its Freeview HD channel ‘Clirlun’ in Wales on April 30th and the BBC is also set to add an additional HD service by the end of the year.

Around 50% of UK homes will be able to receive Freeview HD in time for the World Cup in June and coverage will hit 60% by the end of the year.

Other findings

Other findings in the fourth quarter of 2009 include:

  • Sales of DTT enabled equipment reached over 4.7 million units in Q4, the highest quarterly sales so far and up by 6% on Q4 2008. Integrated digital television sets (IDTVs) accounted for almost 74% of sales in the quarter (3.5 million units); with around 99% of TV sets sold now including an integrated digital decoder.
  • Freeview set-top boxes accounted for almost 1.2 million sales in the quarter, down 7% on the previous Q4. In 2009 almost 13.7 million DTT units (IDTVs and set-top-boxes) were sold, compared to 12.5 million in 2008, an increase of 9%.
  • The number of homes relying on DTT as their sole means of digital TV reception reached around 10.1 million according to survey results in Q4 2009. This was equivalent to almost 40% of all homes and up by around 1.6 percentage points on Q3 2009. Separately, Freeview also reported in December 2009 that it was the main digital TV service in 10 million homes.
  • Q4 sales data from BBC/ITV freesat show that unit sales had reached over 900,000 by the end of December, up from around 650,000 units in Q3. Over three quarters (80%) of freesat decoders sold supported HD services by Q4. According to our consumer research results for Q4, around 643,000 homes claimed to be using some form of free-to-view digital satellite device as their primary means of viewing on their main set.
  • In total, around 42% of households (10.8 million) received a free-to-view digital television service on their main set at the end of December; 39.6% had a non-pay DTT service and 2.5% had free-to-view satellite.
  • The Q4 survey also indicated that approaching 9.2 million or almost 36% of homes, received satellite pay TV services, up 1.1 percentage points year on year. BSkyB reported that it added 172,000 subscribers to its pay television service in the UK and Republic of Ireland during the fourth quarter; we estimate that around 150,000 of these were UK additions.
  • Research results for Q4 show that 12.4% of homes took cable television. Separately, Virgin Media reported net additions of over 34,000 TV subscribers, with its total TV customer base now over 3.7 million. Digital cable added around 57,000 subscribers in the quarter (when including conversions from analogue cable) and accounted for 98% of all cable television customers.

DTT equipment quarterly sales

                                           Q4 2008    Q1 2009    Q2 2009    Q3 2009    Q4 2009
                                         ---------  ---------  ---------  ---------  ---------
Freeview set-top boxes                   1,409,220    922,320    684,600    696,360  1,247,000
Integrated Digital Televisions (IDTV's)  3,059,700  2,453,325  2,004,694  2,154,600  3,491,000
  Total sales                            4,468,920  3,375,645  2,689,294  2,850,960  4,738,000
  DTT DVR sales*                           394,000    291,000    213,600    203,805    329,000

Source: Sales figures from GfK, as adjusted by Freeview. The 5% upwards adjustment represents
Freeview’s estimate of the number of DTT set-top boxes and IDTVs sold in Northern Ireland and
offshore islands.
* DVR sales include devices that combine DVR and DVD recording functionality.

More: Digital Progress Report