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U.K.: Freesat Credits HD for Reaching Milestone

The United Kingdom's free satellite service to licensed TV viewers (which is to say, everyone) cheered the sale of its 100,000th set-top box last week, crediting the "free HD content" as one of the key reasons for the rapid box deployment since first made available to viewers in May.

Freesat, operating with the support of the BBC and ITV "public" broadcasters, first was made available last spring in time for HD coverage of some major sports events—notably the Beijing Olympics, Euro 2008 (soccer), Wimbledon (tennis). Movies such as "King Kong" were also featured on the HD DBS channel's early months.

However, a Freesat executive, in praising HD's value as a marketing tool throughout the United Kingdom, also issued a caution that will sound familiar to many North American observers: "There's no denying how much people enjoy watching in high definition once they see it for themselves, and the success of Freesat proves that. Unfortunately there are still a lot of people out there who think they're already watching in HD because they have an HD Ready TV—but they aren't."

Freesat said in a statement it will work to educate all viewers to understand that "HD Ready" is not the same thing as "HD now." Required hardware is an HD digital receiver connected to an HD Ready TV (or an integrated TV set with built-in Freesat HD).