Setting up for set-tops

While digital TV transmissions have yet to prove their worth, the digital set-top box market is finally starting to show signs of life.

This is being driven by tumbling prices, plasma-screen sales and a desire for improved picture quality, according to GfK analyst, Derek Nash.

"In the past 12 months we've seen a 60 per cent growth in unit sales, but only five per cent growth in terms of value," Nash said. "There were 270,000 units sold in the past 12 months and there is still some growth in the market.

"Prices are coming down, and it will be interesting to see what happens in terms of combining set-top boxes with the personal video recorders that are coming onto the market."

Industry lobby group, Digital Broadcasting Australia (DBA), is inviting retailers to become members, offering a slew of marketing material and sales support in an attempt to drive consumer acceptance.

"At this stage there are just under a million digital receivers in Australian homes, so there is a lot of room for growth as we get closer to a time when digital TV broadcasting is adopted," managing consultant for DBA, Tom O'Keefe, explained.

"We offer guides and display stands to retailers as well as training nights where we bring in consumer market experts and broadcasters as well as offering feedback on research we've conducted into viewer attitudes."

With the date for the switch over from an analogue to a digital signal set beyond 2008, O'Keefe's current advice to retailers is to focus on what set-top boxes provide consumers today rather than future promises.

"Our mantra is 'what do you get now', and that's sharper pictures, digital sound, widescreen images as well as extra channels through ABC and SBS," O'Keefe said. "From our research, set-top boxes are tracking the same as widescreen TV sales, and we are also suggesting selling the boxes with new surround sound systems, because they are complementary."

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