Sales double as Freeview celebrates birthday



Freeview: sales boosted up to 50,000 per week

Digital terrestrial TV service Freeview could be in nearly 2.5 million homes by the new year, with retailers reporting set-top box sales have doubled in the past fortnight as the Christmas shopping rush begins.
Freeview boxes have been selling at a rate of about 25,000 a week throughout the year, with latest estimates putting the total number of units in the UK market at around 2 million.

But retailers have been reporting a doubling of box sales in the past fortnight to around 50,000 a week, according to the Freeview general manager, Matthew Seaman.

If that level of sales is maintained over the Christmas shopping season for the next six weeks, up to 400,000 Freeview boxes could be shifted by the end of the year, pushing the total customer base up to just below 2.5 million.

Mr Seaman said the Freeview customer service centre had received 200,000 calls in the past 10 days - double the volume of inquiries this time last year.

"Freeview has already outstripped our own expectations by a fair degree and we're very confident it's going to be a big Christmas," he added.

The service, which is backed by the BBC, BSkyB and transmission company Crown Castle, celebrated its first birthday yesterday.

Freeview launched from the ashes of Carlton's and Granada's digital terrestrial pay-TV service ITV Digital in October last year.

After the ignominious collapse of ITV Digital in May 2002, there was considerable scepticism in the TV industry and among disgruntled consumers about whether digital terrestrial TV could ever be successful.

However, Freeview quickly dispelled this gloomy outlook by selling 300,000 boxes in its first two months, shifting about 35,000 a week over the 2002 Christmas shopping period.

"I think the most important thing we've achieved is that industry and consumer confidence in digital terrestrial TV has been restored," Mr Seaman said.

Freeview boxes are now available in more than 8,000 stores - double the number of retail outlets stocking them for Christmas 2002.

The boxes are now being sold by supermarket chains Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco, as well as Woolworths, Phones 4U, Toys R Us and most large electrical stores.

Mr Seaman said the average price of Freeview boxes had fallen from £99 last Christmas to around £80, with some stores selling them for as little as £50.