HDTV ball picking up speed

Set to reach 66 mil homes by end of 2009

LONDON -- High-definition television is poised to become a mass-market product as set-top box prices fall and more free-to-air broadcasters launch their channels in HD. So says new research from Informa Media and Telecoms, which forecasts 214 million HD homes, 17% of TV households globally, by 2013.

At the end of 2008, about 4% of global TV homes actively watched HD, but this is predicted to increase to 5.5%, or 66 million homes, by year's end.

About 157 million households worldwide are expected to have HD-enabled sets by the end of 2009, according to Informa, but only 42% are thought to actually be watching programming in high definition.

Sales of HDTV sets are growing fast, according to report author Simon Murray, who said that another 37.6 million homes will be added this year, bringing global penetration to 10% of TV households. Rapid take-up will push this to a quarter of TV households -- or 330 million -- by 2013. At that point, nearly two-thirds of homes with HD sets will be watching HD programming.

Asia Pacific territories are currently at the top of the HD leader board, with 7.4 million active HD homes at the end of last year, which is forecast to grow to 54 million by 2013.

But the fastest growth will come from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which are forecast to grow from 200,000 homes in 2008 to 11.6 million homes by 2013.

In North America, growth is set to more than treble from 30 million in 2008 to 96 million in five years.

"There are no hard and fast reasons why HD works, but take-up does grow when substantial channel choice is on offer," Informa's Murray said.