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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May 2005, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Picture quality drives digital TV
A remote control in front of a TV
Many European are yet to make the switch to digital TV
The move to digital television will be driven by high-definition TV (HDTV) a study has found.

Picture quality is the most important factor in persuading Europeans to ditch their analogue sets, the survey from Jupiter Research finds.

It had been assumed that services such as video-on-demand and digital video recorders - that allow users to rewind and pause television programmes - would be the most important factors.

But only 10% cited these as reasons.

Flexible viewing

Nearly a quarter - 24% - ranked HDTV as the most important factor in deciding whether to switch to digital television.

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"Quality television is critical to drive digital TV growth, but today European digital television delivers just a standard definition picture, and is the poor sibling of world television," said Ian Fogg, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research.

He advised anyone thinking of buying a new TV to check that it is capable of receiving high-definition services.

While existing digital subscribers will be interested in taking up the services offered by video-on-demand and digital video recorders (DVR), such as Sky's SkyPlus box, they should not be relied on by operators hoping to lure non-digital viewers.

"The flexible viewing options enabled by DVR and video-on-demand are less exciting for consumers than many in the industry believe," said Mr Fogg.

The Jupiter report estimates that the number of households in Europe with digital TV will rise from 21% in 2003 to 74% in 2009.

This represents 123 million households, but only a fraction of these will have DVRs and video-on-demand, Jupiter predicted.

It estimates 10.5 million homes will have DVRs by 2009 with 5.8 million households using video-on-demand services.

In terms of existing digital TV penetration, the UK market is the most sophisticated in Europe.

Around 60% of UK households have already made the switch to digital TV.

The UK government is keen to switch off its analogue signal and will begin a region by region move to digital in 2008.

World Cup

Chelsea v Liverpool in UEFA Champions League semi-final
High-definition will enable fans to keep better eye on the ball

Mr Fogg believes European operators have been slow to introduce HDTV because of a belief that standard definition pictures are "good enough".

But HDTV will come into its own in areas such as movies, sports viewing and nature programmes, he thinks.

"In football it will allow people to recognise the faces of the players better and the ball's movement will be smoother, allowing viewers to check whether it has gone over the line, for example," said Mr Fogg.

"The World Cup could be one of the big launch events for high-definition TV," said Mr Fogg.

Germany's pay TV satellite operator Premiere will be broadcast the event in high-definition. The UK's satellite operator Sky is also due to launch services in 2006.

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