Study: Digi switch affecting set-top box sales

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BRUSSELS -- Concerted efforts across the European Union to switch to digital broadcasting will result in a drop in sales of digital TV-enabled set-top boxes over the next few years as analog switch-off begins taking place, according to ABI Research.

EU governments have set their deadline for terrestrial switchover to 2012, but most EU countries that have decided on an analog switchoff date have pegged 2010 or earlier.

The new study also said the decline will be fed by the need for consumers with analog televisions to obtain digital television set-top boxes or join pay TV services.

"The timing of digital TV rollouts will depend, in part, on digital switchover dates as well as the interest of telecom operators -- many of whom are getting licenses to be official digital TV operators -- in order to develop digital TV systems to integrate into telecommunication TV services," ABI research director Stan Schatt said.

Schatt said that, while cable operators are migrating to newer set-top boxes that offer features such as personal video recording and high-definition support, telecom operators are leveraging IPTV technology to support interactive services.

Beginning in 2010, however, many existing customers will have completed their upgrades and demand will begin to decline.

Over the next few years, set-top boxes that provide content using more than one platform will become increasingly popular and begin to replace single-platform set-top boxes in many markets. Schatt said that hybrid set-top boxes -- with their ability to enable new interactive services for cable, terrestrial, and satellite operators -- will be a powerful engine for this market.
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