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Digital TV sales soar as Brits flock to Freeview

iDTVs outsell set-top boxes

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What did you get the missus for Christmas? An iPhone? A Wii? Or perhaps like millions of other Brits, you got her a Freeview-enabled telly or set-top box? Sales of Freeview-branded hardware rose to 3.8m units during the Christmas quarter.

Freeview, the brand under which digital terrestrial TV operates in the UK, had its best quarter ever around Christmas, according to its own examination of figures from market watcher Gfk. However, 2007 as a whole wasn’t a bad year for Freeview either, because UK consumers bought 9.7m Freeview-branded products, an increase of 64 per cent year-on-year.

Sky, by contrast, took on 167,000 subscribers in the last three months of 2007. Virgin Media signed up 61,100 more subscribers in the same period. Currently 8.8m homes subscribe to Sky, 4.8m to Virgin's cable TV service.

Sales of tellies with integrated digital tuners shot up by 133 per cent during Q4 2007, with 2.1m sold. Some 1.7m set-top boxes were sold in the quarter. But for the year as a whole, sales of Freeview set-tops grew 27 per cent on 2006's total.

Gfk estimates that there’s still an estimated 19m analogue TVs without a digital feed - the analogue signal is to be culled completely by 2012. A recent National Audit Office survey found that almost one third of the UK population doesn’t understand that digital TV equipment will be needed to keep them up-to-date with Eastenders and Hollyoaks after that time.

However, a big chunk of Brits know how to record their favourite TV shows from a digital signal. Gfk found that sales of digital video recorders (DVRs) with Freeview Playback stickers on them rose by 78 per cent in December 2007, up from over 500,000 units in December 2006. Such units now account for 50 per cent of the UK’s total DVR market. For example, Sharp last year upgraded its Freeview DVR, now known as the TU-R160HA, to incorporate support for Freeview Playback, its brand for DVR functionality and series-spanning programme recording.

People living in Whitehaven, Cumbria have already had their analogue TV transmission cut, meaning anyone still with analogue TV reception isn't able to pick-up BBC 1, ITV 1 and Channel 4.

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