There has been further upset this week in Greece when on Tuesday, the government announced the immediate closure of their public broadcaster, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) which consisted of 5 TV stations (ET1, NET, ET3, ERT World and ERT HD) and 29 radio stations.
Others will be making comparisons with the present situation in Turkey, which has seen a month of public rioting, but one thing is clear: that when all else fails, people fall back on their televisions.
It is not just whole nations that are in the tight grip of IMF prescribed fiscal measures that find themselves in this state: conversation with the elderly often reveal that their television programming is their last conduit with the wider world – you often here them say ‘I’d be lost with out my television’.
But it’s not just the financially impoverished or the elderly that depend on their televisions. In every home in the world that has mains electricity, it can be assumed that there will probably be a television.
What the television is used for is another issue. According to a survey into why people thought they did not need to buy (in the UK) a TV license was the delightful response ‘We only use it for background lighting’. Whatever.
Yet despite the many and varied uses for television sets – apart from actually watching it – new research from Informa Telecoms & Media reckons that high-definition television (HDTV) continues to make impressive gains in terms of household penetration and by the end of 2017 TV platforms in several countries will be approaching the point where most, if not all, users are actively watching HD content (see chart below).
As recently as 2005, HDTV-ready sets were only located in 3 percent of the world’s TV households and was still seen as something of a novelty. Since then Informa reports HDTV has taken off quickly, benefiting from much reduced set/equipment prices and a wide range of HD channels on offer to attract a mass audience.
Perhaps most significant is that a progressively high proportion of new TV sets and set-top boxes have HD-capability, so TV households are automatically becoming HD-ready via the normal renewal cycle. This, of course, is being also propelled by the global switch-off of the analogue signal being promoted by the International Telecommunications Union.
Once upon a time the death of the film industry was widely reported, but the proven drivers of HD penetration remain films (movies) and sport. Having said that, the devoted film channels, in particular, have become less important in recent years.
In the report, Europe, by way of example, has seen the number of ‘film’ channels in HD increase from 55 to 144 during 2009 to 2012, meaning they accounted for 20 percent of all 274 HD channels in 2009, but this had fallen to 15 percent of the 941 total in 2012. ‘TV fiction’ and ‘Entertainment’ channels are amongst those that have seen an increased percentage during that period (see chart below). While only experiencing a small increase in percentage terms between 2009 and 2012, sports channels remain the largest category and it is still often marketing around major sports events such as the Olympics and World Cup soccer that continues to spur consumer awareness of – and demand for – HD content.
So whatever they are used for – mood lighting; movies or marathon-watching – HD set sales are growing fast, according to Global HDTV Forecasts to 2017 – 7th edition, with a net 70 million HD households forecast to be added in 2013. This means that almost a third (32 percent) of the world’s primary TV sets will be HD-ready by the end of 2013. Ongoing rapid take-up will push that figure to 57 percent of TV households – or 823 million – by 2017.
During 2013, a net 49 million ‘active’ HD homes will be added globally, bringing the total to 228 million. This number will rise by a further 64 million in 2014. By 2017, there will be 603 million HD active homes globally – equivalent to 42 percent of the world’s TV households.
Owning an HD-ready set does not, of course, automatically mean reception of HD programming. And by 2017, 73 percent of homes with HD sets will be actively watching HD programming. The shortfall comes from households that have an HD-ready set and either a) are not interested in HD content or b) are interested but do not yet have an HD-compatible set-top or access to HD content.
Category b) also further sub-divides into those households that are aware they are not watching HD content and those that are under the misapprehension that simply having an HD-ready set means they are watching all programming in HD. This latter group indicates there is still room for additional education on the subject.
This, of course, is great news unless you live in Greece where the content has come to a rather rapid and premature end. Still, look on the bright side, there will be a useful glow from the HD-enabled set so saving on EU-dictated energy saving light bulbs. Arguably the two types of devices will be as equally effective in that regard.