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Olympics gives Freeview a boost

The Olympics have proven to be a boon to Freeview’s uptake, significantly boosting set-top box sales in the quarter to September.

The question is where does Freeview go from here?

TVNZ, which won the exclusive rights to the Beijing Olympics, supplied Freeview with two exclusives, high definition coverage and a 24/7 exclusive Olympics channel to partner the part-time TV1 coverage.

The ploy unsurprisingly worked, as an additional 37,980 receivers were sold between July and September, 19,983 of which were Freeview HD tuners.

This brings the total official Freeview set-top boxes sold to 160,496, including 27,319 HD boxes.

Freeview launched in May 2007, the HD service in April of this year. These figures are the highest quarterly uptake in Freeviews figures.

These figures include non-official tuners, and tuners built into the new generations of LCD and plasma TVs.

NBR understands Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Sharp, who do offer this functionality in their new TVs, have seen consumer interest and sales boosts also.

Freeview said that, excluding these built-in and unofficial tuners, the figures translate to an estimated 10% market penetration, or 380,000 plus Kiwis.

The figure is calculated using set-top boxes sold multiplied by the average person per household, 2.4.

Freeview general manager Steve Browning is happy with the uptake. “We have seen a significant increase in the range of receivers and integrated digital televisions this quarter. It provides people around the country with a greater choice of equipment and a better retail price point which has helped us to drive strong levels of take-up,” he said.

Given the huge impact of the Olympics, is there concern that such a huge sales driver won’t be repeated?

“Well we have Christmas approaching and that should keep sales up. We also have the launch of our PVR recorder around that time, which is already seeing a lot of interest,” Mr Browning said.

The company has added one more HD channel ChineseTV8, a mostly mandarin channel. Mr Browning said that the consortium is looking at adding further channels but the next big driver is expected to be the launch of TVWorks’ two new commercial channels in 2009 and 2010.

Without some added spectrum allocation and/or satellite space, issues being looked at by the Ministry of Economic Development currently, any further extensive expansion plans remain in limbo.

More by by Allan Swann