U.K. turns on to digital TV

80% of homes have digital sets

LONDON — More than 80% of U.K. homes now receive digital television on the main set.

This is according to research published June 20 by British media regulator Ofcom, which shows that in the first quarter of 2007 take up of digital television was 80.5% (20.4 million homes), up from 77.2% the previous quarter.

Freeview, the digital terrestrial service, is available on the main set in 8.4 million homes (up from 7.7 million), overtaking the number of BSkyB U.K. subscribers, which stands at just over 8 million.

Freeview, backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and BSkyB, gained 1.96 million viewers in the period, a hike of 61%.

BSkyB added 32,020 subscribers in the quarter, but the emergence of Virgin Media, the rebranded NTL, saw U.K. cable rise to its highest level of take up — a total of 3.4 million subscribers — in almost five years.

Cable added 36,100 subscribers. It is the first time since 2001 that cable has out-performed BSkyB.

Ofcom CEO Ed Richards said: “More than four in five U.K. households are now enjoying the benefits of digital television.

“It’s great news that we are continuing to see the market grow strongly as we approach the start of digital switchover.”

Turning off Blighty’s analog transmitters begins this October when the North-western English town of Whitehaven will be the first area to go all-digital.

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