DTT popularity grows as TV viewing falls

The popularity of digital terrestrial television (DTT) continues to grow, and will soon account for 30% of the UK's television-viewing households—even though TV viewing as a whole has again fallen, claims a new report. According to the latest study from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), digital TV in its various formats is increasingly sought-after and now features in two-thirds of British homes.

Earlier this year, the IPA, a marketing trade body that represents 250 UK advertising and media buying agencies, predicted that Freeview will overtake BSkyB's pay-TV service by the end of 2006.

The organisation claims that the attractiveness of non-terrestrial channels has continued to rise, with penetration standing at 58.5% as the channels took an overall audience share of 32% for the most recent quarter.

The IPA's new Trends in Television Viewing paper also shows that beleaguered commercial broadcaster ITV, which recently announced the departure of its chief executive, Charles Allen, suffered for the first time a fall below 20% audience share for its flagship terrestrial channel, ITV1. However, the network's digital-only channels, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, Men & Motors and ITN News, enjoyed a rise of 1.4% on the previous period.

Overall, the IPA report shows that average daily TV viewing hours have fallen for the seventh successive quarter year-on-year, with UK audiences now watching an average of 3.43 hours a day.

IPA research director Lynne Robinson said: "This latest dataset portrays an increasingly gloomy picture for terrestrial television, particularity ITV, whose share is declining within a declining market. Added to this, the non-terrestrial channels are far more successful in attracting the key 16-30 audience".

Robinson's comments on age go some way to reinforce recent findings by UK media regulator Ofcom, which earlier this month revealed that even though digital viewing over the past year has risen 18%, the preferred medium for people between 16 and 24 is now the internet, not TV.