The (Terrestrial) Digital TV Revolution

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The (Terrestrial) Digital TV Revolution
Global Multiplatform Players - July 1, 2008

(The Bridge) While U.S. markets argue over converter coupons, levels of consumer knowledge, and how long one service should be forced to carry the analog versions of another, much of the rest of the world has already dived head-first into terrestrial digital platforms.

And in many places the services don’t cost a dime … or a pound or euro.

The United Kingdom, for example, has Freeview. The no-cost service was reported to be in 14 million homes through the fall of 2007. Part of Freeview’s success comes as U.K. consumers move away from analog TV and opt to buy a Freeview digital box or a digital TV capable of receiving the terrestrial digital product.

Freeview offers about 30 channels, ranging from BBC, ITV and Sky selections to children’s and news programming. There also are regional networks and audio channels.

All consumers have to do is buy the reception equipment.

Freeview said it sold 9.7 million branded products last year, up 64 percent on a year-over-year basis. Christmas sales alone amounted to 3.8 million purchases, Freeview said. Products include standalone set-top boxes that start at $49 (U.S.) as well as DVRs that sell for $256 (U.S.). Digital-ready TVs also can access Freeview’s programming.

Shareholders in the Freeview platform are the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, National Grid Wireless and British Sky Broadcasting, the satellite TV giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Sky has a stake in the digital terrestrial plat! form des pite the competition it delivers to the dish service.

The United Kingdom is not alone in embracing digital terrestrial TV. A growing number of digital TV platforms are launching elsewhere in Western Europe, and are challenging pay-TV operators in the markets they serve, though the consumer proposition may differ from country to country.

“Some pay-DTT providers are positioning their service as a kind of ‘halfway house’ between free-to-air services and other forms of pay-TV,” says Cesar Bachelet, a senior analyst with ABI Research. “They offer all the regular free-to-air programs, plus some premium content at an attractive price.”

Along with digital terrestrial TV, more of the planet’s television viewers also are adopting HDTV.

High-def will be seen in 44 million homes around the world by the end of 2008, states data from London-based research firm Informa. That number could jump to 180 million by 2012, according to the company (see graphical attachment).
 

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