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British households embracing digital TV

More than 73% of homes have technology

LONDON — Blighty’s love affair with digital TV shows no sign of cooling. New research indicates that nearly three-quarters of U.K. households watch digitally on their main set, and digital is again gaining momentum.

According to the latest Television Progress Report from U.K. media regulator Ofcom, the digital TV audience grew by 814,000 households in the third quarter of 2006.

Of these, 602,000 were recent converts to digital TV. More than 18.5 million British households now have digital TV equipment.

Between July and the end of September, the proportion of households watching digital TV increased from 70.2% to 73.3%.

Seven million U.K. households are watching via the Freeview digital terrestrial platform. Satellite remains the most popular digital platform, with around 8 million subscribers to paybox BSkyB.

Digital cable saw the highest number of new subscriptions for two years. The U.K.’s 22,000 new cable TV households in the third quarter bring the total number to just over 3.3 million. That could be good news for NTL, the Nasdaq-quoted cable combo that will be relaunched as Virgin Media next year.

Meanwhile, Sky added 68,000 new subscribers.

Report also showed an increasing number of U.K. households are watching digital TV on second or third TV sets as well as on their main set.

As of September there were almost 8 million second sets receiving digital services, up from 4 million in the same period last year.