Viewers in Sky Digital households in the UK watched more satellite channels than terrestrial television for the first time ever last year, according to new figures from the television viewing research group Barb.
The figures will alarm terrestrial broadcasters ITV and Channel 4. Their share of viewing - and advertising revenues - is already falling as more households take up multi-channel television.
But if the trend revealed by Barb continues, they also face the prospect of declining viewing figures even in households which already have satellite television.
The Barb figures show that non-terrestrial television had a record 51 per cent share of the satellite audience last year compared with 49 per cent in 2003.
The figures also show that the new digital terrestrial channels, such as ITV2 and BBC4, have yet to make a big impact on audiences.
These digital terrestrial channels make up only a fraction of viewing in satellite homes with a combined audience share of 2.1 per cent, which is less than UKTV Gold with 2.4 per cent.
The figures also show that in households with Freeview, the free-to-air digital terrestrial television service launched by the BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle, the non-terrestrial digital channels are not attracting large audiences.
Last year, Freeview households dedicated an average of just 17 per cent of their viewing to multi-channel networks.
A spokesman for Sky said: "This is a significant milestone for the growth of multi-channel television. The continuing trend for satellite viewers to allocate more and more of their viewing to multi-channel networks is evidence of the growing range and quality of programming on the Sky platform."
Last year, viewing figures for the BBC's two main channels, BBC1 and BBC2, fell to an all-time low. BBC1's share of all television viewing fell below 25 per cent for the first time its history. BBC2 saw its audience share plummet by almost 9 per cent.Reuse content