Half of UK households to own digital TV by 2005

More then 15million homes will have access to interactive TV services, but few are likely to be surfing the Internet

Half of all UK households will own a digital TV by 2005, according to a report by the Internet research company Jupiter MMXI. But the future for surfing the World Wide Web through interactive TV seems less promising.

Over seven million British households already have digital TV -- a figure that is rapidly approaching a third of all households. The Jupiter report predicts that by 2005, 15.5 million homes will have access to interactive TV services, but is less optimistic about families using their TV to surf the Web.

Daniel Stephenson, the Jupiter analyst who authored today's report, stressed the need to distinguish between the World Wide Web and interactive services when discussing the take-up of digital TV. "We're not suggesting that everyone will access the Web through their TV...the experience isn't great at the moment as very few sites have re-purposed their Web pages for the TV," Stephenson explained. "My prediction is that most people will prefer to use the PC for Internet access."

Big Brother has recently highlighted the potential of interactive TV services, with one third of all eviction votes being cast by digital TV viewers this summer. But research conducted by the Consumers' Association (CA) indicates that interactive services are still not the driving force behind digital TV. "The main reasons for people getting digital TV is for better programming opportunities and more channels -- the number of people accessing the Internet this way is very small," said Alan Stephens, head of digital services at the CA.

But the Jupiter report finds convenience services such as games and e-commerce for low cost goods to be popular with digital TV households. Email has emerged as the surprise success story, with 20 percent of interactive households using it regularly. Almost one third of BskyB's subscribers have registered for email accounts, while Telewest reports that 20 percent of its households use email via their TV.

"We are going to see a number of people whose first experience of the Internet is through their digital TV, using services such as email and instant messenger," Stephens concluded.

See also: ZDNet UK's Consumer News Section.

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