Freeview finding favour among pay-TV refuseniks and the over-55s

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Nine out of 10 Freeview households have no other digital television and most did not look at pay-TV alternatives when opting for the digital terrestrial service.

In presenting early data on Freeview, which launched in October, the BBC said that research showed the platform was not competing with pay services from BSkyB or the cable companies. Contrary to expectations, most consumers were not even taking Freeview for a second or third TV set in a household that already has pay-TV.

The study of 1,000 customers that have bought Freeview adapters, which are needed to take its digital signal on a traditional analogue television, also showed that a relatively old group of people are taking the service. Two-fifths of Freeview buyers are over 55, with nearly three-quarters over the age of 35. Of those surveyed, 83 per cent said they did not consider getting any other digital TV system.

Freeview, a partnership of the BBC, Sky and transmission group Crown Castle, is a free-to-air service that succeeded the defunct ITV Digital partnership. It offers 30 channels, including eight from the BBC.

Andy Duncan, the BBC's director of marketing, said viewers were attracted to Freeview for the simplicity of the proposition. The service only requires a one-off purchase of a decoder box with no contract required to receive the channels.

The BBC said that 1.6 million households now have Freeview, made up of 800,000 that bought the decoder boxes and 800,000 others using the old ITV Digital equipment to receive the signal. Sales of the boxes continue to run at 100,000 a month.

Mr Duncan said Freeview would "certainly" be in more than 2 million households by the end of this year. Other forecasts have suggested it could be in 3 million homes by the end of the year. At an average of 100,000 boxes a month for the rest of 2003, Freeview will be in 2.3 million homes this Christmas.

The BBC said it was planning its next big marketing push for Freeview this autumn, which should boost sales in the run-up to the winter holiday period.