MPEG-4 chipset shortage 'threatens HD launches'

A shortage of MPEG-4 chipsets threatens to delay the launch of high-definition television services by European pay-TV operators. Several operators sought to launch HD in time for the World Cup in Germany, but according to a new report by Screen Digest the MPEG-4 shortage is likely to frustrate those plans.

Though Premiere in Germany, TPS in France, Sky Italia in Italy, Canal Digital in the Nordic region and the BBC will all be broadcasting games in HD format, viewers with HD-Ready screens will not be able to enjoy HD quality without set-top boxes.

"The June World Cup in Germany was supposed to be the perfect kick-start for HD in Europe and its full thrust will be partly missed, but this does not jeopardise the introduction of HDTV.

"The strongest driver for HDTV is the fantastic success of flat panel television sets in Europe at the moment and the fact that a growing proportion of those are featuring HD resolution screens, which are standardised by the 'HD ready' Europe-wide label introduced in 2005."

Screen Digest reckons that at the end of 2005 there were already 2m 'HD ready' TV households in Europe and by 2010 there will be more than 50m 'HD ready' TV sets, creating big opportunities for European pay TV operators. By 2010 there will be approximately 100 HD channels available in Europe and more than 11m households will be watching television in HD quality (receiving HD broadcasts on HD ready sets and set-top boxes).

"The HD proposition will come progressively but ultimately high definition will become the standard quality of television. In the mid-term, pay-TV operators will be able to extract direct new revenue from HD early adopters through HD tiers and next-generation HD-capable PVR set-top boxes. And this will drive a global migration to MPEG-4, resulting in savings in transmission in the long term."