Half of UK homes possess digital television

The number of UK homes with digital television has broken through the half-way point, according to figures released by Ofcom.

The report claims that the crucial 50 per cent mark was reached by the end of December 2003. This will come as encouraging news for the Government, which is planning to switch off the analogue TV signal in 2010.

Freeview has been a large driver of this growth in digital penetration, with the set-top boxes apparently being a popular Christmas present. Uptake of the service increased by 41 per cent during the last quarter of 2003, with an increase of 866,500 homes buying the boxes. The digital terrestrial platform Freeview now accounts for nearly three million households out of a total digital TV universe of 12,357,753 homes for the period up to the end of December.

The number of subscribers to the Sky platform also continued to grow with a 2.6 per cent increase in the number of households connected to the service. The number of Sky homes was 7,208,000.

The penetration of cable, both digital and analogue, however, has remained stable at around 3.2 million homes. The majority of these are digital subscribers with increasing numbers switching from an analogue service to a digital one.

A further 4 per cent of households subscribe to analogue cable, bringing the total number of homes receiving some form of multichannel TV to 54.4 per cent.

Ofcom is next due to report to Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, on the progress towards digital switchover at the end of March. She is adamant that the 2010 deadline will be met.

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