UK consumers still confused over digital TV

"We'll have it," professes UK. As to why -- that's a different question...

Consumer uncertainty may be hindering the take-up of digital television according to a recent Gallup report.

The report says that while nearly half the country plans to switch to digital television in the next three years only 54 percent said they understood the difference between digital and analogue. In addition, 38 percent said they would delay their switch to digital until their television set needed replacing.

It is not necessary to have a digital television set to receive digital television.

The survey of 1004 UK respondents -- sponsored by set-top box manufacturer Pace Micro -- found 42 percent plan to make the move to digital by the end of 2002, with a further 17 percent planning to do so by summer 2000. Those in the 16-35 year age range were the keenest: 64 percent plan to subscribe by 2002.

The report confirms the UK is ready for digital television with only four percent of respondents saying they would never upgrade.

A spokeswoman for ONdigital conceded that the benefit of digital television was a difficult message to get across. "It's like when cars first went unleaded," she said. "There will always be a proportion of those who do it straight away and a proportion who leave it till the last minute." That may explain why only eight percent of respondents said their move to digital would be influenced by broadcaster's supplying free set-top boxes. The main reasons to move were increased programme and channel choice -- 33 percent -- and better sound and picture quality -- 23 percent.

Noah Yaskin analyst at Jupiter Communications, believes consumers need to be made more aware of what services to expect. "Digital operators need to spend a lot of money on consumer education," he said. "For example, Sky is currently only promoting the service with its sport and movies, which doesn't appeal to everyone."

Telewest, which launches its digital television service Thursday, believes one of the biggest barriers to digital take-up is content. "There is still some exception to getting a lot of channels you don't actually want," said a spokesman. "People will be prepared to pay for it if they feel they are getting more choice."