Worldwide use of hi-def to hit in 2010

LONDON — Global usage of high-definition TV outside the U.S. and Japan is unlikely to take off until 2010, when take-up is expected to be three times the present level, according to a new report from Informa Telecoms & Media.

The leading London-based research combo predicts there will be 28.6 million HDTV sets globally by the end of the year, 16.5 million of which will be in the U.S.

Likely to inhibit growth are high prices and the fact that only about one-third of high-def households have the necessary set-top box (or integrated set) to enable programs to be viewed.

“HDTV is already succeeding in the U.S. and Japan, and by 2010 we expect it to also be an established format in Europe,” said the report’s author, Zenobia Talati.

“Although set prices are falling, they remain relatively high, and that means uptake over the next couple of years will be steady rather than spectacular.”

After the U.S., Japan and Canada, penetration of HDTV is beginning to take off in China, but take-up in Germany and the U.K. is not expected to reach significant levels until 2010.

By then, said Informa media research topper Adam Thomas, “the high-definition market will have evolved from a handful of early-adopter countries to an accelerating global market. With public awareness growing, more content becoming available, and the price of TV sets falling, HDTV is on track to becoming a mass-market reality.”

In the U.K., the first HDTV service is set to bow next year courtesy of satcaster BSkyB.

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