The UK has the highest digital television penetration of any country in the world, according to the nation's media and telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Today (Monday) the watchdog unveiled its Communications Market: Digital TV Progress Report for the fourth quarter of 2005, revealing that digital TV was viewed in just under 70% of all UK TV households as at 31 December 2005 - up from 65.9% in the previous quarter. In no other European country has take-up passed the 50% mark.

By the end of February 2006, digital penetration had exceeded 70% of UK homes based on preliminary sales figures of Freeview (digital terrestrial TV) set-top boxes. The data also suggests that take-up varies across the UK: in Wales, for example, digital penetration had reached 80% by the end of 2005.

For the first time, there are now more digital satellite subscribers in the UK than there are homes watching analogue terrestrial-only TV, making digital satellite the UK's most popular TV platform. This reflects the continuing growth of News Corporation-controlled satellite monopoly BSkyB, virtually all its new subscribers switching from analogue sources.

Across 2005, more than 2.7 million additional households started to view digital TV for the first time - more than in any previous year. By the end of the year, the total number of households viewing digital television services on at least one TV set in the home stood at 17.5 million.

Furthermore, almost one in four UK adults live in homes where all TV sets are now used for digital television viewing and viewing of analogue television services has ceased entirely.

Among the key Q4 trends were ...

Digital Satellite Television (BSkyB)

  • At the end of 2005, more households were watching BSkyB subscription services on their principal TV set than any other form of television service.

  • BSkyB added 194,000 subscribers in Q4, bringing its total number of UK subscribing homes to 7,666,000.

  • BSkyB pay-TV services are now present in just under a third (30.5%) of all homes with free-to-view digital satellite services viewed in a further 2.4% of homes.
Digital Terrestrial Television (Freeview)
  • More than 10.5 million Freeview boxes had been sold by the end of 2005, at an average price of £41 per box - the price having halved in just over two years.

  • In the last quarter of 2005, more than 1.9 million Freeview set-top boxes and integrated digital televisions were sold - almost 500,000 more than the corresponding period in 2004.

  • Freeview accounted for seven out of every ten households watching digital television services for the first time in 2005.
Digital Cable Television
  • The total number of subscribers to cable television increased slightly during the quarter to just over 3.3 million. Digital cable subscribers increased by over 71,000 while analogue subscriptions fell by 58,000. Digital cable now accounts for 2.72 million of the total cable subscriber base.

  • Cable serves 13.2% of TV homes, while ADSL internet protocol-based digital television services (Homechoice and Kingston Interactive Television) serve 0.2%.
To view the full Ofcom Digital TV Progress Report click here.

Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff