Austria: Government to Subsidize HD Cable Boxes

While the American government may have chosen to subsidize the cost of DTV converter boxes during the recent transition to help antenna-equipped viewers continue to receive channels, Austrian regulators in Vienna want to help cablers better penetrate the digital marketplace and is willing to put their money (or their taxpayers' money) where their mouth is.

While well over half (58%) of all Austrian household have made the digital jump, most of its pay-TV viewers subscribe to a satellite service, not cable (unlike in the United States). Exactly how many Austrians are currently actually watching HD content in HD is not yet known.

To grow DTV market penetration on cable, the Austrian government will provide vouchers worth about $57 each to current analog cable customers who agree to transition to digital TV when they buy digital receivers. To qualify, the receiver must be suitable for HD reception (although a stipulation of earlier government grants requiring that receivers also must be capable of interactive services has been dropped).

The vouchers began circulating this week and will run until the end of next February, while supplies last. The government initiative will be limited to 33,333 boxes and a voucher assistance budget of $2.84 million. Unlike the American version of having to apply for vouchers through the mail or online and await delivery by mail, the Austrian vouchers (which will number far fewer than the many millions distributed in the U.S.) can be obtained from either the retailer or the affected cable company.