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Free satellite in 900,000 UK households as Selkirk prepares for Switchover

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A month before Selkirk in the Scottish borders becomes the first region in the UK to switch to an all digital service, the latest figures from Ofcom reveal that there are over 900,000 households with a free satellite service in the UK.

The Communications Market: Digital Progress Report for the second quarter of 2008 shows around 840,000 homes were using free satellite - from BSkyB, BBC/ITV or other retailers - on their main television set. This was an increase of around 120,000 on the previous quarter.

In addition, between June and September BBC/ITV freesat sold a further 60,000 units, meaning that the total number of households using a free satellite service is now around 900,000.

The report also shows that 88 per cent of households now have digital TV on their main set. The second quarter of 2008 showed that households remain focussed on switching their secondary television sets to digital as well. Over half (19.1 million) of the 35 million secondary sets have now been converted to digital.

Key trends for the second quarter of 2008 include:


  • The total number of households with DTT reached 16.7 million in the second quarter of 2008.
  • More than 2 million DTT devices were sold in the second quarter of this year. Integrated Digital Televisions (IDTV) accounted for almost two-thirds (1.4 million units) of all DTT sales, with IDTV sales up by 54 per cent on the year.
  • Over the past year, 11.7 million DTT devices were sold, compared to 7.6 million in the previous year, up by 65 per cent year-on-year.
  • The total number of secondary sets connected to DTT stood at 14.7m compared to 9.7m on primary sets. This means that 60 per cent of DTT devices are now on secondary sets.
  • Around 1 million DTT digital video recorders had been sold by the second quarter of 2008.


  • BSkyB grew its UK and Ireland subscriber base by 92,000 to 8.9 million households, an increase of 398,000 over the past 12 months.
  • The number of BSkyB subscribers taking the Multiroom service, which allows viewers to receive Sky services on additional TV sets, increased by 33,000 during the quarter to reach over 1.6 million. Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of BSkyB subscribers now have at least one extra TV set connected to a BSkyB service.
  • Sky+, the digital video recording service, saw another quarter of growth, adding 321,000 subscribers, taking the total number of subscribers with this service to over 3.7 million, around 41 per cent of its customers.
  • Sky’s high definition service added 33,000 subscribers to reach 498,000 subscribers (5.5 per cent) by the end of the quarter.


  • May 2008 saw the launch of the BBC and ITV’s freesat service, which offers around 130 free digital and radio channels without a subscription. This means that there are currently four main categories of free satellite services:
    • former BSkyB subscribers who previously paid for their service but now use their satellite equipment to receive free-to-view services;
    • BSkyB’s own non subscription services (‘Freesat from Sky’ or Sky Pay Once’);
    • viewers with satellite-receiving equipment from retailers other than that supplied by BSkyB or the BBC/ITV freesat service; and
    • the new BBC/ITV freesat service
  • By the end of the second quarter of 2008, 840,000 households were using free-to-view services on their main set – an increase of around 120,000 on the previous quarter.
  • Of the 39,018 BBC/ITV freesat service sold by the end of the second quarter of this year, more than half (23, 854) were high-definition (HD) units.

CABLE TELEVISION – Virgin Media subscribers

  • Virgin Media now has over 3.5m cable subscribers in total, up by almost 24,000 in the second quarter of this year.
  • An additional 60,700 cable viewers subscribed to Virgin Media’s digital video recorder service known as V+ during the quarter, bringing the total number of users to 424,900. This service can also be used with HD TV set.
  • Almost half of Virgin Media customers (48 per cent) were using its video on demand service (VoD). In total, there were 38 million VoD views over the period, up by over 90 per cent on the year.
  • Virgin Media also launched the BBC iPlayer as part of its VoD service during this quarter, providing access to BBC archive programming. The new service achieved 10.5 views in June 2008.