SATELLITE WATCH

A close examination of the European satellite TV market shows that quality programming really does pay

More than 63 million homes in Europe, over a third of the total, receive satellite TV. Virtually all, or 94 per cent, are linked to Astra. Penetration of satellite TV by country varies from a high of 96 per cent in the Netherlands to a low of two per cent in Italy.

But which are the largest and which the fastest-growing markets?

Germany is in the lead. Three out of four homes in the largest country in Europe get satellite TV. The German market is also growing fastest. In the first six months of this year Germany added more than 1 million home dishes, though the number of cable subscribers actually fell.

In the UK, where there are more TV homes than any country except Germany, only one in five homes have satellite TV. Despite ranking third across Europe in terms of the number of satellite homes, the UK did not enter the top five for growth.

These are the latest figures from SES/Astra, based on more than 36,000 interviews in the first half of 1995. They show that the East European countries are now big satellite TV markets. Poland, with more than 3 million satellite homes – or 26 per cent of the total – is the largest market. Cable is ahead, with 1.7 million homes compared with 1.4 million dishes.

Hungary, with 1.9 million satellite homes, is the fastest growing East European market. It added 324,000 new homes in the first half of the year. Almost all of this growth comes from cable.

In western Europe the low penetration countries are gaining pace. Fewer that ten per cent of homes in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain have satellite TV. Italy comes bottom, with only two per cent of homes. However, Italy ranks second only to Germany in terms of growth. France and Spain are also showing rapid growth, and take fourth and fifth places respectively.

Total growth in the first half of 1995 across the 22 countries measured was more than 2.25 million, with 1.4 million new dish homes and 900,000 new cable residences.

Astra forecasts that by December the total number of European satellite TV homes will rise by another 2.5 million to reach 65 million.

Why will there be faster growth in the last six months? Because satellite TV growth is seasonal, and the approach of winter and Christmas fuels demand for more TV entertainment.

All this growth is fuelled by one thing: public demand for more TV choice. This thirst for better programming was illustrated by Disney’s entry into the UK market. On Sunday October 1 Disney went on-air to those homes in the UK that take both Sky movie channels – about two thirds of all satellite homes.

It launched by showing The Jungle Book from 6.30pm to 8pm. This achieved an average TVR of 8.5 in satellite homes, ahead of all channels except ITV. BBC1 took third place with a TVR of just 6.1.

Quality programming pays, and even a new channel, with limited distribution, can achieve major sampling and viewing if it shows truly popular programmes.

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