Britain is the world leader for digital television, according to a new report from Screen Digest.

Around 34% of UK households have signed up for dTV services. Such penetration is far higher than in the rest of Europe, Britain’s nearest competitors being Spain (18%) and France (17%).

As a result, Europe’s digital divide is widening – despite the fact that over 99% of EU satellite TV households are now digital. Germany’s dTV penetration is a paltry 6%, while in the Netherlands it is just 3%. In these countries, existing low-cost multi-channel services mean that digital TV does not have the same driving force as it does in the UK, where it has become practically the only way to receive more than the standard five terrestrial stations.

The report noted that growth of digital cable services has stalled over the past year as cable operators such as NTL and UPC have run into financial strife. Although the report highlighted the successful launch of Britain’s free-to-air digital terrestrial platform Freeview, it nevertheless concluded: “A digital TV Europe remains a distant dream.”

“In many European countries, it will have to be accepted that free-to-air platforms offer the only route to full digital conversion,” declared Guy Bisson, one of the authors of the study. “In countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, without a business model that will allow digital free-to-view services to work, the time frame to reach analogue switch off will remain a very long one.”

Data sourced from: Screen Digest; additional content by WARC staff