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Digital TV drives multichannel share



"The inexorable rise in multichannel share is being driven by the growth of the digital TV market," this is the view of The Guardian reporting the latest viewing figures for the UK.

"Non-terrestrial channels are set to record their best ever combined monthly audience share in August, which will see them overtake BBC1 - the most popular terrestrial channel - for the first time," writes Jason Deans.

Two programming strands are helping this trend - predictably the return of the Premier League to Sky Sports but also the success of Pop Idol 2 on ITV2. Viewing figures for the month as a whole will show Multichannel TV taking a share of around 25.1 per cent, just ahead of BBC1's audience share for the month at 24.4 per cent. ITV1 stands at 23.1 per cent.

And the growth of multichannel viewing could hit another landmark by the end of 2003, with the sector's audience share for the year to date currently running virtually neck and neck with ITV1's share. However, a strong autumn schedule may keep ITV1 in poll position.

Earlier in August the chief executive of BSkyB, Tony Ball, announced that his company was just "weeks away" from hitting its target of 7 million subscribers - nearly six months ahead of schedule. A year ago, BSkyB's subscriber figure stood at 6.1 million.

At the same time, the Freeview market continues to grow apace. This looks to continue, according to consultants Strategy Analytics They predict the price of adaptors (DTAs) will fall to as little as £27 within four years. The collapse in the price of adaptors, from £60-£80 now to little more than the cost of three cinema tickets, will help increase the number of people watching digital TV through their existing aerials, the study added.

DTTV Set-top Boxes: Retail Price Projections*

(End year) 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Retail Price (Euros) 84.00 63.00 50.40 42.84 36.41
Retail Price (GBP) 61.35 46.01 36.81 31.29 26.60
Strategy Analytics *Based on entry-level DTTV devices sold in Europe, at constant 2003 exchange rates

It predicted the number of subscribers to digital terrestrial TV would double in Europe, hitting 3.5 million by the end of this year. But it believes the government will have to plough large amounts of money into subsidising adaptors and digital TV sets if it wants to convince the majority of viewers to make the switch.

"We still think that is a very aggressive target. People are getting very excited about the success of Freeview, but there's still a long way to go," said David Mercer, principal analyst at Strategy Analytics.

A further boost for Digital terrestrial comes with the news that EchoStar is launching a low-price DTA in the UK market. The company says: Boasting two SCART sockets, fast MHEG interactivity and comprehensive online help, this EchoStar Free-To-View adaptor should set new standards in value for money.

The T-101 FTA has been designed by EchoStar's own European engineering team with the end-user in mind. The product is easy to use, with a comprehensive Help facility and the unique Mixvue full screen picture and menu system. The contextual Help is accessible on the TV screen and controlled by a single Help key on the Remote Control Unit, giving the user fast and easy assistance "on the fly."

It will be priced between £69-79.