Television now 55% digital as analogue broadcasting switch-off advances worldwide

Thursday, November 21st, 2013
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TV market diversifies, competition intensifies, with IPTV, digital terrestrial, cable and DTH satellite all vying for viewer share

GENEVA — On the occasion of UN World Television Day, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) research shows that the world has witnessed a massive shift from analogue to digital television, with over 55 per cent of households with a TV now receiving a digital signal compared with just 30 per cent in 2008, according to new data from our flagship annual report Measuring the Information Society 2013.

ITU figures show that, globally, the halfway mark for digital penetration was passed in 2012. In the developed world, an estimated 81 per cent of total households with a TV now receive a digital signal. But the digital switchover is also moving forward apace in the developing world, where the number of households receiving digital TV almost tripled in the four-year period from 2008 to end 2012, reaching 42 per cent.

The number of pay-TV subscriptions worldwide increased by 32 per cent between 2008 and 2012, overtaking free-to-air TV in 2011. There were a total of 728 million pay-TV subscriptions by end 2012, meaning that 53 per cent of all households with a television had a pay-TV subscription.

The new report notes that traditional multichannel TV platforms, such as cable and direct-to-home (DTH) satellite, are facing increasing competition from IPTV service providers and even digital terrestrial TV (DTT) channels.

At the same time, TV delivery over the Internet is becoming increasingly popular, particularly through over-the-top (OTT) audio-visual content providers such as YouTube, Netflix and China’s PPLive service, as well as the many traditional broadcasting stations that now offer online streaming or downloading of TV and video content.

The steady decline in analogue TV technologies is being counterbalanced by strong growth of digital technologies. Digital cable subscriptions more than doubled between 2008 and 2012, as did the number of households receiving DTT.
The technology with the highest relative growth was IPTV, with total subscriptions increasing more than fourfold over the four-year period. In absolute terms, however, IPTV still represents a marginal share of total households with a TV, accounting for just 5 per cent in 2012.

“New technologies are creating a plethora of new platforms for content sharing, which in turn is making television much more accessible over a wide range of devices,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General, ITU. “This is very important in the developing world, where TV continues to play an important role in education and knowledge sharing.”

Globally, ITU figures show that there were an estimated 1.4 billion households with at least one TV set by end 2012. In the developing world as a whole, 72 per cent of households had a TV, compared with 98 per cent household penetration in developed countries. In Africa, fewer than one third of households had a TV at end 2012.

“Digital TV continues to evolve into a highly valuable platform for the delivery of all kinds of services, like educational programming for distance learning,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “With television now accessible over an ever-wider range of digital devices, it constitutes an important element of our new Smart Sustainable Development initiative, as well as our M-powering Development partnership programme, both of which seek to leverage ICTs to improve the lives of people worldwide.”

ITU’s Measuring the Information Society report, released every year, is the world’s most comprehensive snapshot of global ICT trends. It includes ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI), a unique global index that ranks 157 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills. The IDI is widely recognized by government, UN agencies and industry as the most accurate measure of overall national ICT development.