View from City Road: Dishing up some telling statistics

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The Independent Online
IT IS NOT just those who care about the appearance of Britain's streets who are curious about the number of satellite television dishes. Traditional television and advertising companies are also showing an interest.

British Sky Broadcasting, 50 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, says 3.6 million homes receive satellite TV. But 1.1 million of these do so through cable and shared dishes, leaving 2.5 million dishes in use.

These figures suggest huge sales in recent months. BSkyB puts most store by Continental Research, which estimated that there were 2.1 million satellite dishes at the end of last year. On this basis a further 400,000 have been supplied so far this year, presumably boosted by BSkyB's commitment to Premier League football.

But other market research firms produce much lower figures. Based on a survey of 25,000 households, GfK Marketing Services estimated there were 1.6 million dishes at the end of last year. A third firm, British Audience Research Bureau, which is well respected throughout the industry, estimates there were 1.8 million.

The number of dishes is important because it determines viewing figures and the attractions of satellite to advertisers. Traditional TV channels, fearful that satellite will attract a rising share of advertising revenue, have an interest in kocking the highest estimates. The number of dishes also affects the valuation of BSkyB.

With these commercial interests at stake the next set of estimates from market research firms is keenly awaited. It is difficult to see how such estimates can differ from BSkyB's own figures.