OFCOM report: UK digital media is growing fast

The UK looks set to become a digital media capital – with take-up of digital television, digital radio and broadband all rapidly increasing over the last 18 months. A report from OFCOM (the recently-created replacement for OFTEL), published in August 2004 and entitled “The Communications Market 2004”, provides a wealth of information and statistics about the changing face of the media market in the UK. The report shows that in all three major media – television, radio and the internet – the UK public is increasingly accessing their daily diet of media content digitally.


Television continues to dominate and, significantly, the report claims that 53% of homes (13 million) now receive digital TV.  There are four main ways to receive digital television: satellite, cable and digital terrestrial (or “DTT”), with a fourth internet version, “TV over DSL”, at an early stage. Most receive these services via a digital set-top box, but 3% of UK homes already have integrated Digital Television sets (“iDTVs”) which needs no separate set-top box.

The report details how subscriptions revenue overtook advertising revenue, and how the digital sector drove overall growth, with revenue sponsorship, sales from shopping channels, use of premium rate telephony and interactive services accounting for the biggest increase (up 51%). Further televisual revelations include:

  • The Sky digital platform offers 272 television channels (of which 11 are delayed re-broadcasts of the original channel – “+1” services) and a number of pay per view services. A high proportion of these channels are also available from the cable companies, while DTT offers 37 television channels.
  • Interactive television services – the “red button” – have been used by 43% of digital viewers, with 21% claiming to use such services at least once a week.
  • Only a handful of digital channels regularly achieve more than 2% audience share even in multichannel homes, reflecting the level of fragmentation of the market.

Digital Radio

The rise of digital radio is perhaps the most surprising as 2.5% of households now own at least one DAB set – quite a high number for such a young format – and available to over 85% of the UK population. Already, the UK is the world leader in DAB digital radio and penetration is greater than in any other European country. There are 130 individual commercial services (including 45% of all analogue radio stations) available digitally and 32 of them are available only on digital. Among the radio facts:

  • 28.8% of all adults have listened to radio using their television set.
  • Half of all UK analogue radio stations can be heard through websites.
  • 8 UK radio groups account for 84% of all commercial radio listening and 83% of commercial revenues. Capital now controls five analogue licences in London (the two Choice stations, Capital FM, Capital Gold London and Xfm).
  • GWR recently announced the launch of its “hear it, buy it, burn it” service on its radio websites. Users can hear a song they like on the radio and use the station’s website to pay for and download it to their MP3 player.
  • Listening to radio via mobile phones has rapidly increased among 15-24 year olds (though this access is currently still only analogue).


The report makes clear that the future is digital. The UK has a growing appetite for the electronic delivery of all content, including news, entertainment, music and other such copyright material. While TV remains the most popular source for all forms of content, digital radio and the internet are gaining ground. Perhaps the most important trend, however, is the fusion (and confusion) of all media. The proliferation of TV delivered via the internet, digital radio delivered via TV, the internet delivered via radio and just about every other technological permutation, shows that huge change is taking place. The winners are likely to be those who can make sense of the kinds of information provided in this comprehensive OFCOM report.

Read the full report, as well as a useful overview

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