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European HD growth lags due to lack of free-to-air HD programs

HD technology has reached a tipping point in Europe, with viewer adoption across the region accelerating rapidly, according to the latest report from media analyst Screen Digest.

Despite growing penetration of HD screens, a lack of HD content on free-to-air platforms across the region is causing a significant content gap, the report said.

By the end of 2007, 18 percent of the 165 million European TV households were equipped with HD displays, but less than 1 percent was fully HD-enabled with an HD set-top box and an HD subscription.

By 2012, the situation will have improved little, with only 20 percent of the forecasted 85 percent of European households with HD displays actually watching HD content, the report said. However, by the middle of the next decade, HDTV will become the mainstream, said Screen Digest senior analyst Vincent Letang.

According to Screen Digest, the current lack of access to free-to-air HD channels is a major factor for the low adoption of HD. In Europe, there are currently about 100 HD channels, with the vast majority on satellite and only a handful available on cable. As of today, only Sweden has launched HD on free-to-air digital terrestrial TV, and only France and the UK are likely to follow suit in the short term.

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