UK digital TV platform Freeview enjoyed a bumper Christmas, with a surge in sales of its set-top boxes.

Around 200,000 of the decoders were sold in December, meaning nearly 2.5 million are now in circulation.

Backed by the BBC and BSkyB, Freeview offers Britons a limited range of free-to-air channels once they've purchased a set-top box. Since its launch in late 2002, it has grown rapidly. Decoder sales averaged around 25,000 a week last year, but as Christmas approached this shot up to 50,000 [WAMN: 04-Nov-03] -- a pace that seems to have lasted through December.

The sales surge is good news for the government, which hopes to switch off the analogue signal by 2010. To do so, however, digital penetration must have reached about 90% of viewers -- a target that will remain difficult to meet while a quarter of the nation's households lie outside Freeview's reception area.

According to Jocelyn Hay, chair of consumer body Voice of the Listener and Viewer, a "comprehensive campaign" touting the advantages of digital TV is required, otherwise the government will "find it increasingly difficult to persuade those who have not yet invested in the new technology to do so."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff