Nearly 50% of U.K. homes have pay TV

BSkyB's high-def service is the fastest-growing product

LONDON -- Nearly half of U.K. homes now subscribe to a pay TV service, U.K. media regulator Ofcom said Monday, with cable and satellite services driving pay TV growth.

As part of its digital progress report for the fourth quarter of 2008, Ofcom said that 49.5% of British households have a pay satellite or cable service on their main television set, up from 48.6% in the previous quarter.

Some 39.3% have subscription-free digital services -- either via digital satellite or through their existing aerial -- while only 11.2% have old-style analog TV.

BSkyB's high-definition service proved to be the fastest-growing product, adding a record 188,000 subscribers during the quarter, bringing its total to 780,000 HD subscribers.

Another 521,000 cable customers subscribed to Virgin Media's V+ service, which allows viewers to watch programs in HD, while sales of BBC/ITV freesat HD receivers had reached 172,000 by the end of 2008.

HD also will begin to become available on DTT from late 2009, with nationwide coverage expected by the end of the digital switchover in 2012.