Study: Global Pay TV Revenue Topped $184 billion in 2012

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Cable is still king in the pay-TV world but DTH revenues are expected to soon surpass cable TV earnings worldwide.

The figure is up 28.5 percent from 2008, with global pay TV households up to 772 million.

COLOGNE, Germany – Pay TV continues to roll out worldwide, with the number of households paying for small-screen entertainment up from 585 million homes in 2008 to 772 million last year, according to a new report from U.K. group Digital TV Research.

Total pay TV revenue topped $184 billion in 2012, a 28.5 percent jump on the $143 billion earned in 2008, the study found.

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The bulk of that growth came from the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for two thirds of new subscribers, or 126 million households, over the four-year period. Asia is now home to some 433 million pay TV homes, compared to 112 million for the second-largest region, North America, where some 4 million new households have been added since 2008.

In terms of subscriber numbers, China and India lead the U.S. with 232.8 million and 116.7 million pay TV homes, respectively, compared to 100.2 million in the U.S. China also surpassed the U.S. to become the largest digital TV household nation, with 187 million digital TV homes -- about a quarter of the world's total.

However, North America remains the world's most lucrative pay TV market, generating about half of total pay TV revenues worldwide.

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The largest number of pay TV homes in Europe are in Russia (23.6 million) and Germany (21.8 million), with 14.4 million in the U.K. In Asia, Japan, with 25.1 million pay TV homes, and South Korea, with 16.1 million, are the largest territories behind China and India.

The report found that while revenues from cable TV still represent the largest single category of paid television, growth in the segment is flattening out and digital TV revenues from direct-to-home (DTH) services are expected to soon overtake cable. Of the 97 countries covered in the report, the Digital TV World Databook, there were 404 million new digital homes (both pay and free) added in the past four years, taking the global total to 786 million. Digital TV penetration of total TV households crossed the 50 percent line, with 55.7 percent of all TV homes digital by the end of 2012, compared to 28.6% at the end of 2008. Of those, some 273 million homes get their TV via digital cable, a further 178 million via paid DTH services and 118 million receive only free DTH as of the end of last year. Over-the-air free digital terrestrial television (DTT)  accounted for 138 million homes with pay DTT adding another 9 million.

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Online TV has also shown strong growth, with IPTV revenues soaring from $2.8 billion in 2008 to $12 billion last year, with the total number of paid IPTV homes up 18 million to 69 million worldwide, the report found.

Analog TV is still a significant force, however, with some 652 million analog TV households worldwide as of the end of last year. This is down from 956 million in 2008.