High Definition channels in Europe on the up

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 
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European Audiovisual Observatory releases latest MAVISE figures for MIP TV

  • 47.8% increase in the number of HD channels in Europe in 2011
  • 375 new TV channels launched in the EU last year
  • A total of 8900 different channels currently available in Europe
  • Cinema/fiction and sport still the big favourites

STRASBOURG — Recent data from the MAVISE TV database, developed by the European Audiovisual Observatory for the DG Communication of the European Commission, shows the current status of the European television market. MAVISE contains data on the EU markets plus the candidates Croatia, “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Turkey.

In the context of national economic crises and competition from new modes of content delivery, the development of television channels in Europe remains stable. At the beginning of 2012, the MAVISE database contains information on a total of 8900 television channels. Of these, 7400 are established in the European Union, and 7900 in the EU and the candidate countries. A further 1000 channels are available in these countries but are broadcasting from third countries (including a large number of satellite channels from outside of Europe).

Regional and local channels represent about 40% of the total channels available. Among the channels available in the EU and candidates countries, cinema (and fiction) and sport channels represent the two most predominant channel genres (when one excludes local and regional channels), with 644 and 575 channels, respectively.

In 2011, 375 new television channels were launched in the European Union. Unlike in previous years where sport was the dominant genre of new channels, in 2011 the growth of HD channels had a major impact on the overall growth of the market.

High definition channels and their distribution

According to data from the MAVISE database, at the end of 2011 there were approximately 612 HD channels available in Europe, an increase from 414 at the end of 2010 (and 274 at the end of 2009). This figure includes both HD specific channels and simulcasts of standard definition channels. Sport remains the most important genre in HD television (approximately 20% of HD channels), followed by film and generalist channels (each around 15% of the total).

The distribution of HD television channels also continues to grow. In 2011 satellite packages offered more than 50 HD channels in Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and more than 30 in Germany, France and the Netherlands. The strongest HD offers on cable are available in Portugal (40+), the Netherlands and Germany (30+). At the end of 2011, more than 30 HD channels were made available in IPTV packages in Switzerland, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands. HD channels are now available on DTT networks in eighteen countries (as compared to three networks at the end of 2009).

There are an estimated 20 3D channels broadcasting (or testing) in Europe, and they tend to provide a mix of content such as sport, films and special events.

Fig 1: HD channels available in Europe by genre (December 2011 – in units)

Sport, Film, TV Fiction, Gemeralist, Documentary, Entertainment, Regional/Local, Lifestyle/Specific leisure, Music, Cultural/Educational, Children, Adult, travel, News, Others
Source: MAVISE/ European Audiovisual Observatory (Yearbook 2011)

Growth in the number of platforms and operators

The growth of distribution platforms has also remained stable (see for example regarding the EU in the table below). The number of IPTV platforms and Pay DTT services continues to increase, while satellite packages and cable offers have declined since 2010. This is partly due to consolidation in these sectors.

Fig 2: TV distribution platforms in the EU27 (2008-2011) – In units

Pay DTT operators, Cable operators, Satellite packages, IPTV Operators, Mobile phone/mobile broadcast TV packagers
Source: MAVISE/ European Audiovisual Observatory (Yearbook 2011)

Digital Switch-over 2012

As we enter 2012, the EU deadline for switch-off of digital terrestrial television is fast approaching. In 2011, a further three EU member states completed the transition: Cyprus, France and Malta, bringing the EU total to 15. A further eight EU countries are expected to complete ASO (the United Kingdom, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) in 2012. Delays are expected in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and possibly also Hungary. Switch-off has also taken place in non-EU countries such as Switzerland, Iceland, Croatia and Norway.

Fig 3: Analogue switch-off (ASO) in Europe

2006-2011, 2012, >2012
Source: MAVISE/ European Audiovisual Observatory

Digital terrestrial television services are quite advanced in several countries, with more than 60% of homes being DTT only in Italy and Spain at the end of 2011. In France and the United Kingdom, 62% and 74% of homes respectively, were using DTT in their homes (on primary or secondary sets).

At the end of 2011, 31 pay-TV platforms were available in 19 European countries. At the same time some planned Pay-DTT services in Spain and Portugal have not materialised, services have ceased elsewhere (Italy) and in several smaller countries the development of a financially successful model for pay DTT is proving difficult.