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Europe loves HD TVs - but not HD broadcasts

Waiting for free-to-air

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Only one in five households in Western Europe own an HD TV today, and while that figure is expected to jump to 85 per cent by 2012, most of us will still be watching standard-definition content.

So claims market watcher Screen Digest, which pinpointed the poor penetration of HD into Europe on a sparsity of free-to-view HD TV channels, especially over terrestrial broadcast networks.

Only Sweden has terrestrially broadcast HD channels, though the UK and France may soon follow suit. That leaves the vast majority of Europe's 100 HD channels only available through satellite and a much smaller proportion through cable.

Today, only 1.7 per cent of households in Western Europe have the kit to receive and watch HD broadcasts. Come 2012 that figure will have risen to just under 17 per cent. We'll have to wait until 2015 for the widespread availability of free-to-air HD channels to boost HD viewing into the mainstream, Screen Digest forecast.

By 2018, however, we won't be watching anything else, it reckons.

"HD has not been pushed hard enough by many of Europe's pay TV operators," said senior Screen Digest analyst Vincent Létang. "Paradoxically, it has been used heavily as a marketing tool, but has not been followed through with the delivery of HD channels – for example, Premiere in Germany still only offers two HD channels.

"There is a direct connection between the depth of the HD offering and the take up of HD by subscribers. BSkyB has 17 HD channels and on the back of this has signed up almost 500,000 subscribers in less than two years."

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