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18/03/2003

Europe's Digital TV divide grows

Britain leads the world in digital TV and, along with France and Spain, is now leaving other major European countries behind.
According to a new report from media analysts Screen Digest, Europe's digital TV laggards include Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.
In the UK, the world's digital TV champion, 34% of TV homes subscribe to digital. In France the figure is 17% and in Spain 18%. Operators in these markets have invested heavily in digital TV because they can broadcast more channels, at a lower cost and offer potentially profitable interactive services. Satellite, notable, for its premium sports and movie channels, not cable, has been the driving force behind the growth in digital TV in these markets. More than 99% of EU satellite TV households are now digital.
After a strong start, growth in digital cable TV over the past year has stagnated. Cable operators lack the funding and the inclination to upgrade their analogue subscribers to digital packages. Added to this, the cable industry suffered some of the worst of 2002's corporate failures.
In Germany digital pay TV reaches just 6% of TV households and, in The Netherlands, just 3% of TV households.
Digital TV in both of these countries lacks a market-driver - both countries have a wide selection of free-to-air channels and low-cost multi-channel packages available. For this reason, relatively expensive digital TV packages lack appeal and until the cost of digital TV comes down, digital homes will remain few and far between.
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