The uptake of HD technology in Europe is accelerating rapidly but there remains a “significant” content gap caused by the lack of HD programming on free-to-air platforms across the region.
That’s the conclusion of the latest report from media analysts Screen Digest which says that by the end of 2007, 18 per cent of the 165 million European TV households were equipped with HD displays.
But less than one per cent of these (approximately one million) were fully “HD enabled” – that is equipped with an HD set-top box and an HD subscription enabling them to watch HD broadcasts.
The report forecasts that by 2012 the situation will have improved little – only 20 per cent of the 85 per cent of European households with HD displays will actually be watching in HD.
It says that ultimately HD will become the default choice of TV viewers but in the most part they will have to wait at least until 2015 to enjoy the content for free.
This will be driven by the availability of HD across all free platforms, channels upgrading to HD making other formats unwatchable and next-generation TV’s coming with MPEG4 capability.
Vincent Létang , senior analyst with Screen Digest and author of the report, said that in the next five years, HDTV will remain little more than a pay TV product in Europe – primarily on satellite.
He said analogue switch-off, which will happen between 2010 and 2012 will free-up bandwidth capacity on the digital terrestrial platform and will kick-start the next phase of growth in high definition TV.
“HDTV will become the mainstream and ultimately the standard form of free television around the middle of the next decade,” he said.
“In ten years time, nobody will ever refer to “high definition” because HD will be everywhere.”
The report, entitled “HDTV 2008: Global Uptake, Strategies and Business Models”, identifies three critical success factors that will support the successful expansion of HDTV: penetration of HD displays; supply of HD content and the availability of HD broadcast platforms.
It identifies the lack of access to free-to-air HD channels as a key reason behind the low take-up of HD.
“In Europe there are currently approximately 100 HD channels, with the vast majority on satellite and only a handful available on cable,” the report states.
“As of today, only Sweden has launched HD on free-to-air digital terrestrial TV and only France and the UK are likely to follow suit in the short term.”

Subscribe to our Newsletter