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Digital Television Update - 2006 Q2

04 Hydref 2006

Overview

1.1 The proportion of households in the UK which received digital television services on their primary TV set increased slightly during the three months to June 2006 to reach 70.2%. This figure is derived using a new calculation methodology (see below).

1.2 However, there were over 1.2 million sales of digital terrestrial television (DTT) equipment and100,000 net subscriber additions to digital pay television services during the quarter, illustrating that a growing number of households are converting secondary television sets.

1.3 With a further 1.8% of households subscribing to analogue cable services in Q2 2006, the total number of homes receiving some form of multi-channel television stood at 72.0%.

Key findings

Key developments in the second quarter of 2006 included:

  • The number of households with digital TV equipment rose by over 168,000 to reach almost 17.7 million.
  • There were 1.2 million sales of DTT equipment, marking the fourth consecutive quarter,where sales exceeded one million. Sales were higher than for the equivalent period in 2005 and over the past year total sales have reached almost 5.4 million. Of the 1.2m sales, 736,000 were DTT set top boxes while 488,000 were Integrated Digital Televisions (IDTVs).
  • DTT-only households grew from 6,387,000 to 6,402,000 over the quarter (using Ofcom’s new methodology), an increase of 15,000.
  • On satellite, the number of BSkyB UK subscribers rose by 57,000 to 7.7 million. When free-to-view satellite viewers are included, the total number of satellite homes exceeded 8.4 million.
  • The number of cable subscribers decreased modestly during the quarter to stand at just over 3.3 million. Analogue cable subscriptions fell by 72,000 while digital cable increased by almost 50,000. Digital cable subscribers now account for over 2.8 million, or 86%, of all cable subscribers.
  • Latest estimates suggest that there are also around 700,000 free-to-view digital satellite homes. This figure includes viewers who use satellite equipment to receive the free-to-view channels.
  • In total there are now around 7.1 million free-to-view digital households (DTT and free-to-view satellite).

1.4 In calculating platform totals in the report, DTT-only homes are defined as those households where DTT is the only digital TV platform in the home. A household with satellite or cable on the main TV set and DTT on a second set, would be counted as a satellite or cable home. Satellite and cable subscriber figures are already shown net of second receivers (e.g. a household with two Sky boxes is only recorded once).

Methodology review and restatement of Q1 data

In previous digital television updates Ofcom calculated the number of DTT-only households by estimating the proportion of DTT device sales which were for bought for the primary set and then adjusting for inactive boxes. The results of this methodology have largely concurred with the findings of other research sources such as GfK and Ofcom’s residential survey. However, as the market matures and the number of DTT households grows, a larger proportion of DTT devices are being used to convert second television sets to digital television or as upgrades or replacements to existing DTT equipment. This means that sales data can no longer be relied on to produce the most accurate estimates of new DTT-only homes.

Ofcom strives to provide best-in-class research and to use the most robust methodology available. We believe that, now that DTT has become a mass-market product, the best way to gain a clear view on how take-up trends are changing is to use survey-based research. The research data used in this report has been provided to Ofcom by research agency GfK, which surveys 18,000 homes per quarter in relation to take-up and usage of digital and multi-channel television.

Ofcom will, for the time being, continue to use platform operator data for calculating the number of homes using the cable and satellite platforms, as paying subscribers are seen as a reliable indicator of take-up. In the future, however, we may consider areas of overlap between the digital platforms more closely and also examine how best to allow for non-residential. Free satellite households are also becoming increasingly prevalent and we will endeavour to ensure that we source reliable information on the use of non-subscription satellite equipment.

In the interests of comparability and in order to produce a consistent time series of data we have also restated the DTT homes figures for Q1 2006, as published in our previous Digital Television Update. The previously published Q1 data is indicated in red italics throughout this report alongside the new Q1 restated figures.

Ofcom will continue to monitor the effectiveness of its methodologies in calculating digital TV homes and will continue to make use of the most up to date research available.