By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Plasma and LCD televisions with built-in digital TV tuners are rapidly growing in popularity with Australian consumers, according to Digital Broadcasting Australia (DBA), which has published figures revealing a dramatic spike in sales for the second quarter of 2006.

DBA figures for the April to June period show sales of integrated digital TV products, such as plasma and LCD TVs with built-in digital tuners, rose to over 53,000 units – a 63 per cent jump from the 32,500 sold in the first quarter of 2006, and almost as much as the entire 2005 sales volume of 57,741.

According to the DBA director representing retailers, Mark King, demand for integrated digital TVs is ripening.

“Consumers are looking for an easy solution – they want to use one remote for their TV, rather than have one for their TV and an additional one for a set top box,” said King.

“There has been an extremely positive reception from consumers, and many manufacturers are racing to bring out integrated products to market.”

Although integrated TV sales accounted for a larger proportion of sales in the quarter, set top box sales also increased volume, suggesting that the overall growth can be attributed to the wider availability of digital integrated TVs as manufacturers expand their offering.

High definition tuners also grew in popularity, up two per cent over the previous quarter to account for 40 per cent of sales.

“Again this is a byproduct of LCD TV popularity, because LCD TVs are typically high definition and many of them are now coming with integrated HD tuners as well,” said King.

Overall, 229,000 digital TV receivers were sold through retailers and installers during the second quarter, compared with 211,000 in Q1.

This represents the highest-ever average monthly sales volume at 76,000 units per month, topping the previous record of 72,000 per month for the December 2005 quarter.

However, sales growth has remained relatively steady and retailers are yet to see the sharp spike in overall digital TV uptake which will be needed before all Australians are tuning into digital.

The DBA estimates that around 20 per cent of Australian homes currently receive digital TV, with cumulative sales of digital TV receivers reaching 1.74 million since the products were introduced in 2000.

With many of these in homes with more than one digital tuner or held in inventory by retailers, the DBA estimates around 1.57 million of the 7.6 million households have converted.

But King says new government legislation providing incentives for consumers to switch to digital could have an effect as early as next year.

“Digital TV is going to boom, and in particular it is going to boom next year when HD restrictions on airtime opens up and ABC has more ability to broadcast HD content. The more HD content is available, the more we are going to see growth in uptake,” he said.