TV households embrace new tech rapidly

LONDON — The number of digital TV households in Western Europe is expected to climb 25% this year to 45.8 million by December and reach 50 million in 2006, according to the latest edition of Informa Telecoms and Media’s Western European Television forecast.

Some 99.4 million digital subscribers are predicted by 2010.

“The future is increasingly bright for digital TV in Europe,” said Adam Thomas, author of the report. “The cable and satellite sectors are reaping the benefits of consolidation and debt restructuring, and this has resulted in stronger companies that have the resources to upgrade their networks and fully market their services.”

By the end of this year, the U.K. is expected to account for 34.6% of the region’s digital total, followed by France with 15.3% and Germany and Italy with 13.7% each.

The U.K. will drop to 21.6% of the total by 2010 despite adding more than 5 million digital subscribers in the next five years. Germany will grow faster, overtaking the U.K. and increasing its share of the total to 25% by 2010.

Some resistance

Consumers in some of the more established cable countries are, however, proving resistant to digital upgrades, according to the report.

The picture for digital terrestrial television is also mixed. It is taking off in some countries — such as the U.K., where cheap Freeview boxes are available — and in Italy, where the government offers a set-top box subsidy.

But DTT rollout has been slow or delayed in other countries, leaving a question mark over meeting government targets for digital switchover.

“Hopes are dwindling for an early switch-off of analog signals in some Western European countries,” said Thomas. “Even those countries with the highest digital penetration rates at present could have some problems with a core of consumers who are resistant to change.”

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