Over Half of British Homes Now Watch Digital TV

25 November 2003

Digital television in Britain has passed the viewing watershed, the latest data from BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) revealing that over half of all UK viewers, 50.4%, now watch dTV.

Leading the digital drive is BSkyB with 6.7 million digital satellite subscribers; while the BBC's digital platform Freeview, launched only twelve months ago, now sports an estimated two million-plus users. Cable operators NTL and Telewest also report a surge in digital take-up.

Converselly, non-digital channels have been ebbing viewers as the number of dTV homes increases. This year, Channel 4 audiences slipped to their lowest level for more than a decade, while ITV1's Saturday night viewing figures are looking wan.

The digital upsurge is good news for the government which hopes to phase-out the analogue TV signal by 2010. But recent research has uncovered an intractable 70% of analogue viewers who say they would "resent" the switching off of the signal, claiming dTV to be too "'laborious and demanding" even to change channels.

Says culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell: "We need to convince people that switchover is good for them. Dual transmission is unfair. Switching off the analogue signal is the only way we can bring digital terrestrial TV to everybody."

She argues that the "continuing use of analogue deprives 20%-25% of the population of digital TV coverage, and we simply cannot improve this coverage before we turn analogue off".

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff