UK Leads World In HDTV Ownership, But Lags In Take-Up Of HD Channels

Jonathan Sutton

Despite leading the rest of the world when it comes to proportional HDTV ownership, the UK still lags behind in terms of HD services availability and take-up, according to a recent report from UK media regulator Ofcom. To put it another way, even though more than half of British households are already equipped with a HDTV set, standard-definition TV programmes still make up the majority of television viewing in the United Kingdom.

Watching SD on HDTV

This data can be found in the mammoth 417-page research document titled “International Communications Market Report 2010” released by Ofcom last week, which compared the availability and adoption of various media and communication technologies in 17 countries including the UK. 59% of UK consumers own and use a HDTV (phrased as “HD-ready TV set” in the research questionnaire) at home, which is proportionally higher than the Americans (57%), the Italians (48%), the French (46%) and the Germans (39%). Almost all television sets available to buy in the United Kingdom at present are HD-ready, with HDTV sales surpassing 24 million units towards the end of the first quarter of 2010.

However, there is still a large gap between HDTV ownership and HD content penetration in the UK. Only a meagre 13% of British TV-equipped homes have access to high-definition channels, which is dwarfed by the HD penetration rates in the USA (44%), Japan (43%) and France (42%). The Ofcom report drew a connection between the number of available HD channels and the adoption of HD services in different countries: in the US there are over 400 high-def channels on offer, while the UK only has around 60.

Ofcom’s analysis also gave a breakdown of the activities for which UK viewers use their HDTVs. 30% said they watch Blu-ray or HD DVD movies on their HDTV sets; 29% play high-definition video games on Sony PS3 (Playstation 3) or Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles; 34% watch dedicated HD film channels; 27% watch dedicated HD sports channels; and 48% watch other generic HD channels (for example BBC HD or ITV1 HD).

Source: Ofcom