• This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn more.

Freeview could outstrip Sky by 2007



Freeview, the digital TV service backed by the BBC, is set to replace Sky as the UK's favourite way of watching multichannel television by the end of 2007.
According to industry research, the free-to-air service, which is available in 3 million homes compared with Sky's 7.2 million, is expected to be adopted by almost 10 million households in four years time, with Sky in 8.9 million UK homes and cable in just 3.5 million.

The prospect of Freeview outdoing Sky TV is something that is already taxing the minds of the Murdochs - Rupert and his son James, who is the chief executive of BSkyB - who have to consider whether to concentrate on making more money out of existing subscribers, or whether to switch strategy and go for growth.

The study also suggest 87% of households will have gone digital by 2008, leaving only a small minority of die-hard analogue viewers.

The figures will set off warning bells at BSkyB, where recently appointed James Murdoch axed plans to launch a general entertainment channel on Freeview to rival ITV1 and Channel 4 earlier this month.

The predictions, made by ZenithOptimedia in its UK Television Forecast 2007, also conflict with Sky's own subscriber growth estimates. The satellite broadcaster has set itself the task of reaching 8 million homes by the end of 2005, but sees significant potential for additional growth as the country switches over from analogue to digital.

At the company's last results briefing, James Murdoch said he believed there were still 10 million customers for BSkyB to target over the next six to 10 years.

Zenith suggests Sky may see growth in its subscriber base slow significantly, while Freeserve surges ahead.

Adam Smith, the head of knowledge management at ZenithOptimedia, said the dramatic growth of Freeview was likely because the service would become as standard as Teletext.

"There is no subscription barrier and the hardware cost will continue to tumble. We expect Freeview to be hardwired into TVs.

"Sky believe they have the potential to reach 10 million homes in the UK and I don't doubt they'll get there, but not in this time scale," he said.

Smith added that cable would continue to struggle, despite the prospect of a merger between Telewest and NTL.

"There is no compelling case for digital cable. A merger would cut the cost base, but it won't help the marketing of cable. I don't think people care who owns it."

The study largely validates the government's plan to switch off analogue TV signals by 2010. By the end of 2007, Zenith expects 22.3 million out of a total of 25.6 million homes to be watching digital TV.

Freeview has enjoyed a dramatic rate of uptake in recent months. In the last quarter of 2003 the number of Freeview boxes sold rose by 41%, helping to take digital penetration in the UK to over half of all households, according to Ofcom.

Zenith says rapid uptake of Freeview will continue this year. It expects that by the end of 2004 15.2 million households will watch TV via some sort of digital service. It expects Freeview to account for 4.8 million and Sky 7.6 million, while the number of cable homes will have fallen from 3 million at the end of 2003 to 2.8 million.

The dramatic increase in access to multichannel TV will also have a significant affect on audience shares and advertising revenues for terrestrial broadcasters.


Dazed and Confused Admin
Staff member
My Satellite Setup
--------See sig--------
My Location
Wirral, NW UK and Vaucluse, France.
erm... well of course it will as the country gradually switches off the analogue transmitters.

What's the next incredible discovery? Water is wet?