Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Freeview's buyers get younger as sales of set-top boxes hit 10m

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

Wednesday March 1, 2006

Sales of Freeview set-top boxes have hit 10m, bringing the digital TV service closer to overtaking Sky as the largest multi-channel television platform in Britain.

The landmark figure comes as the profile of those using Freeview gets younger, which puts the service into more direct competition with the pay-TV operators - Sky and cable companies NTL and Telewest, which are soon to merge. Freeview is in nearly 6m UK homes - the other set-top boxes are used for second or third television sets - while Sky is in 8m and cable is in more than 3m households.

Freeview is the main driver of digital TV take-up, with sales of 70,000 a week in January. While the price for basic Freeview set-top boxes has fallen to below 30 in retailers such as Tesco and Argos, a growing number of people are buying Freeview set-top boxes that include more expensive features such as a built-in personal video recorder (PVR). In January, 16,000 of the 280,000 Freeview boxes sold included a PVR, or nearly 6% of the total sold, according to GfK research.

GfK also reported that at the end of last year 15% of those buying Freeview were over 55, down some 3% from a year earlier, while the number of buyers aged 45 to 54 grew 7% from 2004, to reach 21%.

The shift is being driven by additions to Freeview such as ITV's new children's service from March 11 and FilmFour becoming a free service in July. The new offers aim more at Sky and cable's strengths as both tended to attract a younger clientele, especially families with children.

Freeview general manager Ilse Howling said: "At the start of Freeview in 2002, it was reasonable to say that it was appealing more to older people. That's no longer true." Richard Freudenstein, BSkyB chief operating officer, said last week that Freeview's "lack of spectrum, lack of interactivity and lack of customer service will become increasingly apparent in the years ahead".

Separately, Ofcom, the media regulator, said yesterday there were now 10m broadband connections in Britain.


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