By Sarah Falson

SYDNEY: The number of free-to-view digital television receivers sold to retailers and installers from 1 October to 31 December 2006 reached an estimated 302,000 units, meaning one in four Australian homes could now have free-to-view digital TV.

The estimate is based on sales reported to Digital Broadcasting Australia (DBA) by companies supplying receivers to retailers and installers, along with data collected from GfK (though not all suppliers in Australia provide data to either GfK or DBA).

The umbrella classification ‘free-to-view digital television receivers’, which does not include receivers that enable subscription television such as Foxtel, refers to digital set-top boxes, personal video recorders (PVRs) and televisions with integrated set-top boxes and PVRs, but does not include other types of digital television receivers such as those in the form of receiver cards for personal computers.

According to the report, these new figures put the cumulative sales figure for free-to-air digital television receivers up to 2.3 million, with the average monthly sales volume of the units to retailers and installers during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2006 reaching a new high of over 100,600 units, compared to 72,600 units sold to retailers and installers during the same period the year before.

Furthermore, 53 per cent of the total digital television receivers sold to Australian retailers and installers were those integrated into LCD and plasma televisions. According to the report, this growth contributed to a strong growth in the sales of high definition digital television receivers, with high definition receivers now accounting for the “majority” of all digital television receiver-sales to Australian retailers and installers.

DBA and GfK estimate that high definition receivers now account for around 36 per cent of all digital television receivers present in Australian homes, however the accuracy of this figure is debatable since 125,000 receivers sold to retailers are estimated to be held in inventory – which is equivalent to one month of sales – and though it is known that some Australian homes have more than one digital television receiver, the exact number is not clear. The report estimates 175,000 homes own two or more digital television receivers.

Assuming that these figures are accurate, the home take-up or penetration of free-to-view digital television receivers has now reached 2 million, or around 25 per cent of Australia’s 7.8 million homes.