In case anyone is interested in this market report..... Wednesday, August 25, 2004 E-business/ HDTV is here and looks set to stay -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Source: THE BIRMINGHAM POST THE BIRMINGHAM POST via NewsEdge Corporation : High-definition TV (HDTV) has arrived - and is here to stay, despite some observers previously claiming it would never come to the European market. In a new report, High-definition TV in Europe: the upgrade cycle begins, inde-pendent market analyst Datamonitor forecasts there will be 4.6 million HDTV households in Europe by 2008, up from 50,000 at the end of 2003. Germany, the UK and France will lead the European rollout. Whilst high prices in the beginning will hinder sales, those who do buy will be in the top-tier of the elusive ABC1 advertising super-group, with large disposable incomes. 'Momentum for HDTV is now building. Broadcasters have announced definite deployment plans,' said Datamonitor's James Healey, senior media and broadcasting technologies analyst. 'The consumer electronics (CE) industry is a-buzz over this new (and profitable) market. HDTV is here today and it is here to stay.' However, Datamonitor warns that consumer education will be critical to ensuring the HDTV technology upgrade occurs as smoothly as possible. Many will unquestionably be confused by the competing technologies. Already being broadcast in the US, Australia, Japan, Canada and South Korea, European consumers will be able to benefit from improved picture clarity and surround sound (5.1). HDTV also introduces new terms: 720p and 1080i. Televisions in Europe today display 576 lines, but HD video increases this line count - creating improved picture quality - to either 720 or 1080, depending which standard is selected by the broadcaster. Datamonitor expects Germany, the UKand France to lead the adoption of HDTV, with Italy a distant fourth. Recently, Sky in the UK and M6, TPS and TF1 in France, have announced plans to offer HD content to viewers - TPS should launch services in 2005 and Sky in 2006. In fact, the French terrestrial channels had asked the French government to permit HDTV on the digital terrestrial television network that will launch next year - although that request has been rejected. The BBC has plans to produce all of its content in HD by 2010. But take-up rates will be slow due to the high cost of HDTVs - currently averaging $4,900 across Europe - and the limited availability of HD content. Only one operator in Europe, Euro1080, is broadcasting any content in HD today. Datamonitor says this is truly a nascent market, but eventually - more than 20 years from now - all of Europe will broadcast television only in HD. Because of the increased number of lines, HD files are larger and require six times the bandwidth of today's standarddefinition (SD) content. In order for operators to broadcast whole bouquets of HD content, they will need to adopt a new compression technology - either MPEG-4 part 10 AVC/H.264 or Microsoft's Windows Media 9. The first deployments of HDTV around the world have been with MPEG-2 HD. Although one might typically expect Microsoft's commercial firepower - superior financial/investment resources and marketing awareness - to guarantee it the leading market share, Datamonitor expects MPEG-4 to win 70 per cent of the market. News from European broadcasters, in particular France, looks promising for MPEG-4. The chief executives of TPS, French satellite TV service indicated recently that MPEG-4 would be used for their HD channels - at least one channel is due to be live next summer. The French terrestrial broadcaster, and TPS' main shareholder, TF1 is also expected to follow the MPEG-4 path. According to Datamonitor, it is not unfeasible that this will create an unstoppable momentum in Europe, as these early movers drive down the relative cost of MPEG-4 broadcast and consumer equipment. And despite education, experts at Datamonitor say that consumer adoption will be 'like watching a car crash happen'. To watch/record HD content, consumers will have to upgrade their home entertainment systems - a new television, set-top box, VCR, PVR/DVD recorder etc. And despite the best-laid marketing plans of the broadcasters, CE manufacturers, and undoubtedly a massive marketing campaign, many consumers will be confused by the competing technologies. Datamonitor believes that the only certain result is that there will be headline stories of consumers unintentionally buying expensive televisions that are not truly HD-ready. It happens in the US and it will happen in Europe. Educating the consumer is critical to ensuring the technology upgrade occurs as smoothly as possible. .end (paragraph)<<THE BIRMINGHAM POST -- 08/24/04>> Chris Muriel, Manchester.