Freeview gives digital a boost but awareness is still low

LONDON - Today's launch of Freeview has helped renew consumer interest in digital TV, but it could benefit from investment in marketing, a survey commissioned by Mediaedge:CIA has found.

The number of UK consumers who expect to sign up for digital TV services in the next six months has doubled to 6%, according to the latest Mediaedge:CIA Sensor survey.

This compares with just 3% in April, when former digital terrestrial service ITV Digital collapsed.

The research attributes the positive change in attitudes to the BBC's free-to-air digital TV platform Freeview, which officially launches today.

David Fletcher, head of Mediaedge:CIA's research and development arm MediaLab UK, said: "Pre-launch demand among 750,000 homes for pre-Christmas acquisition is a very positive sign for Freeview, and launch activity should push this further.

"We also speculate that this in part reflects a certain amount of 'frustrated' demand for digital terrestrial television, following the demise of ITV Digital."

The survey, which questioned a sample of 1000 adults between October 10-16, showed that of those who are thinking about taking a digital service, 12% or 3m homes are likely to opt for Freeview, with 1% of these signing up for the service before Christmas.

Fletcher said: "The survey suggests that Freeview is poised for a good start. However, the success of Freeview and digital terrestrial TV are dependent on perceptions of benefits and the price of the service."

The survey also showed that awareness of Freeview was low, compared with that of Sky, Telewest and NTL. Sky was recognised by 94% of homes, Telewest by 54% and NTL by 45%. Freeview scored just 10%.

However, the BBC is set to spend £3.5m on advertising, which should go some way to rectifying this situation.

Fletcher said: "The current demand for digital terrestrial TV still remains low and Freeview doesn't fulfil the government's initial plans, namely that it will not enable the UK to become a truly interactively enabled society. It also remains to be seen if the government can make the money it hopes to by selling chunks of the analogue spectrum to businesses."

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