There are now more than a million digital set-top boxes installed in Australian homes but only about 10 per cent are being used to pick up enhanced digital television services. This is according to research carried out by ratings measurement agency, OzTam, and analyst group, Eureka Strategy.
According to Eureka Strategy director, Tom Loncar, Australian consumers are predominantly buying into the technology for reasons other than to watch the free-to-air digital broadcasts being offered by the ABC and SBS.
"According to the Digital Media survey we carried out for the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the main reasons consumers are interested in purchasing a digital set-top box are to improve signal reception and enhance picture quality," Loncar explained. "Access to extra channels and free-to-air digital television services came in third, and we found there is still a very low appreciation of the benefits digital free-to-air services can offer."
These findings fit in with the latest OzTam digital television ratings figures, which suggest the ABC's digital broadcast service ABC2 attracted just over 100,000 viewers during September.
"While the sale of set-top boxes is certainly growing, take up of digital services has been slower than expected," commented Loncar. "Initially, the analogue signal was expected to be phased out about 2008; however, latest indications from the government are that it will continue throughout 2010 and beyond."
While Eureka Strategies research indicates that consumers are interested in a number of benefits associated with the digital free-to-air signal, many of the features - like alternative camera angles and detailed program information - are yet to be made available across all channels. As such, he suggested resellers would do best to focus on benefits currently available.
"Ultimately, when digital set-top box uptake is broad enough, the digital television services will also become more broadly available," Loncar said. "But in the mean time purchases are being made based on what's currently available, and that is first and foremost improved reception, with a secondary interest in the offerings available through ABC2 and SBS2."