More than 4.5 million households in Europe will switch on to high-definition TV (HDTV) by 2008, a figure up by nearly 100 per cent from 50,000 at the end of 2003, research has claimed.
Analyst firm Datamonitor expects Germany, the UK and France to lead the adoption of HDTV. But it warned that take-up rates would initially be slow due to the high cost of HDTVs (currently around $4,900 across Europe) and the limited availability of high-definition content.
Current technology displays 576 lines, but HDTV will increase this to either 720 or 1,080 (depending on which standard is used by the broadcaster).
Recently, Sky in the UK and M6, TPS and TF1 in France said they planned to offer HD content to viewers, with TPS promising services in 2005 and Sky in 2006. The BBC has plans to produce all of its content in HD by 2010. In the US, Canada, Japan and South Korea some HD content is already available.
"Momentum for HDTV is now building. Broadcasters have announced definite deployment plans. The consumer electronics [CE] industry is a-buzz over this new (and profitable) market," said James Healey, senior media and broadcasting technologies analyst at Datamonitor, in a statement.
"Although televisions remain high priced and few operators are ready for HD broadcasts, momentum for the introduction of HDTV in Europe is unstoppable.
"CE manufacturers are already selling HDTVs; Sony even has large displays in 180 retail stores across Europe promoting the superior picture quality, and broadcasters are beginning to record content in HD."
But the report, High-definition TV in Europe: the upgrade cycle begins, warns that many potential customers will be confused by competing technologies.
HDTV requires the use of compression technology to be effective and, while the first deployments of HDTV around the world have been with Mpeg-2 HD, Microsoft is positioning Windows Media 9 as an alternative.
But Datamonitor predicts that although Microsoft's commercial firepower might guarantee it the leading market share, Mpeg-4 will prosper, eventually winning 70 per cent of the market.
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