UK: Antsy Brits Buying HD Sets

Manufacturers trying to market HD sets in the U.S. should have been so fortunate several years ago: Although faced with a dearth of HD broadcasts in the United Kingdom, consumers are nevertheless creating a noticeable bump-up in sales of HD-ready sets anyway this winter. The fact that virtually no HD content is available in February 2006 doesn't seem to matter.

Exactly why HD appears to be catching hold in the British Isles is anyone's guess, but according to a few British publications, likely reasons may include recent publicity about BSkyB going HD in the very near future (although most HD set buyers apparently are not yet the DBS firm's subs). Anticipation of the BBC's coverage of World Cup matches this summer in HD also is cited as another incentive. (Sales figures are not yet available.)

The BBC has been touting its upcoming HD channels in the past year, and occasionally it has provided huge outdoor HD demos for park concerts and other major events. But the venerable broadcaster does not plan to complete its ramp-up of HD services nationally until around 2010. The BBC is initially investing about 700 million pounds ($1.22 billion) into its DTV-HD conversion. (Non-HD digital sets have been on the British market for quite a while.)

Meanwhile, in an interesting maverick strike on the UK's still non-existent terrestrial HD market, Humax of South Korea will begin offering a satellite receiver late this spring. The company said it will capture whatever OTA HD broadcasts might begin to pop up in the UK. The unit does not come cheap. According to published reports, the Humax receiver will cost about 290 pounds ($506).