UK digital forecasts - 2017

Freeview, the UK’s free-to-air digital TV bouquet, is seemingly on a roll, with sales last year of 9.7m set-top boxes or integrated TV sets.

Sales of Freeview-branded products were up an impressive 64% last year, and with a massive 3.8m units (boxes and TVs) being sold in the pre-Christmas quarter-year. Freeview units with some sort of integrated hard drive (Freeview Playback) also sold well, up 78% y-o-y to more than 272,000 cumulative sales to the end of last year (of which it is understood that Top-Up TV’s DVR represents close to half the sales volume).

Sales research measurement company GfK says 2.1m iDTVs were sold in Q4/2007, up 133% on 2006. Freeview’s General Manager Ilse Howling admits that many Freeview boxes are being sold to convert second and other sets in the home, and there are some 19m sets still to be converted. “More than half the homes in the country now have Freeview and the value of Freeview Playback is set to grow further for these homes and the millions of others with additional sets still to convert,” she added.

This is an appealing picture of DTT’s UK progress, but recent data unveiled by Enders Analysis suggests that a more realistic picture is that DTT (either via set-top boxes or iDTVs) is available only to some 9m based on a home’s primary set. This is a perfectly impressive number, but it suggests that many Freeview set-top boxes are increasingly going to non-primary viewing areas. Moreover Enders’ suggests that DTT sales are now beginning to plateau, and they forecast that over the next four years to 2012, viewers using DTT at the primary TV set in a home will only expand to about 10.8m. (By 2017 it is suggested this will grow fractionally to 10.9m, of which 1.2m will be paying for some sort of pay-TV service over DTT).

Enders’ senior analyst Toby Syfret was not overly optimistic about DSL-based pay-TV services, and had not factored the IPTV-based services like those offered by British Telecom and Tiscali into his forecasts, saying: “At best, they might achieve 5% viewing share. Anything more would be an incredible achievement.”

UK Digital TV Homes 2007 2012 2017

Total TV households 25.6m 26.8m 28m

Total Pay TV 11m 13.2m 14m

Pay Dig-Sat 7.8m 9.3m 9.8m

Pay Dig-Cab 2.7m 2.3m 2.2m

Free Dig-Sat 0.8m 2m 2.1m

Free DTT 9m 10.8m 10.9m

Data at end 2007