France is the last major European player to join the digital terrestrial TV revolution, with fifteen free-to-air channels launching this week.

The platform is branded Television Numerique pour Tous (digital television for all), inevitably shortened to the acronym TNT. Customers will access the free channels through a digital television set or via a setttop box costing around €79 ($102, £54).

The service follows the format of the hugely successful British Freeview platform, now installed in 4.2 million UK homes. Digital TV penetration in Britain has hit almost 60%.

The consulting firm Arthur D Little forecasts that 31% of French households will watch digital TV by the end of 2005, increasing to 80% by early 2009.

Says TNT chief operating officer Olivier Gerolami: "It is difficult to tell how quickly it will take off but we are optimistic it will revolutionise television in France."

He adds: "France is the poorest market in Europe in terms of free-to-air national channels so it has the potential to be one of the biggest DTT markets."

However, some analysts fear a downside to this revolution. They say the march of digital TV will slow the growth of pay television and the fragmentation of the market will weaken advertising revenues on other channels.

Data sourced from International Herald Tribune Online; additional content by WARC staff