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U.K.’s Freeview in 7.1 mil homes

Figures suggest 18 mil homes prepped for digital TV

LONDON — The U.K.’s digital terrestrial platform, Freeview, continues to make waves, according to new figures released by British communications regulator Ofcom.

About 1.2 million Freeview boxes were sold in the first three months of 2006, up 40% from the same period last year, bringing the total number of Freeview households to almost 7.1 million.

The figures, which give paybox Sky 7.7 million subscribers, suggest 18 million U.K. homes have access to digital TV in some form.

The number of Freeview users is expected to overtake Sky subscribers by the end of the year.

Some 3.3 million Brits watch cable TV and 645,000 use Sky’s free-to-air satellite service.

The regulator, which noted digital takeup is growing faster than expected, estimates 72.5% of households with TV sets now watch digital services, up from 69.5% at the end of 2005.

Only 6.4 million homes still rely on the analog TV signal, Ofcom said.

The statistics are good news for the British government, which plans to switch off the analog signal in 2012.

Freeview is owned jointly by the BBC, BSkyB, National Grid Wireless, ITV and Channel 4.

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