The UK is a world leader in digital television, now available in over 70% of households or 17.5 million homes. One in four UK adults lives in a home which no longer views analogue television, but there is still some way to go before all viewing is digital.
Digital take-up has not passed the 50% mark in any other European country, although 55% of homes in the US now have digital television. Some 30 million households worldwide adopted digital television in the course of 2005, meaning that 13% of all television homes now receive some form of digital television.
The latest figures published by the regulator Ofcom indicate that for the first time there are now more digital satellite subscribers in the UK than there are homes watching analogue terrestrial television or any other form of television delivery. A third of all UK homes now has satellite television.
With the continued growth of Freeview, digital penetration has now passed 70%. Nearly two million digital terrestrial television receivers were sold in the last quarter of 2005, taking the total number to 10.5 million by the end of the year.
The number of subscribers to digital cable television increased slightly, now accounting for 2.7 million of the total 3.3 million cable homes in the UK.
While delivery of television and video over broadband is in its infancy, Ofcom expects this to become more significant in 2006 as companies launch new services.
There are significant variations in digital take-up by region, ranging from 56% in Northern Ireland to 80% in Wales, where Channel 4 is not available on analogue television.
There are no signs as yet that growth in digital take-up is slowing. More homes acquired digital TV in the fourth quarter of 2005 than in any previous quarter since the launch of digital services in 1998.
Ofcom forecasts that a further 1.7 million homes will go digital in 2006, and the number will continue to grow at around a million a year.
It is estimated that 85% of homes will have taken up digital television by the time the analogue signal is switched off in the Border region in the second half of 2008. By the end of 2010, half way through the digital switchover programme, 95% of homes are expected to have adopted some form of digital television.
However, 60% of televisions in the UK, some 36 million sets, currently still receive analogue transmissions. Nearly half of all television viewing, including that on secondary sets, is through the analogue terrestrial signal.
There are also 34 million video cassette recorders, at least a quarter of which are regularly used for recording one programme while watching another. These will need to be replaced by personal video recorders or other forms of digital video recorder.
The figures are provided in the latest Communications Market research published by Ofcom, which provides an excellent overview of the UK digital television market.