High Definition in Europe reaches new high

Earlier this month, France said goodbye to standard definition and fully embraced better picture quality as it became Europe’s first market to switch to all-HD. Is France setting the High Definition bar for the rest of Europe?

France switches to High Definition

On the night of 4 April, all Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) channels in France went dark for a few hours. They were making the permanent switch to High Definition (in MPEG-4). When 15 million TV homes in France woke up the next day, everyone enjoy a clearer picture on their screens for all 25 TNT channels along with their morning coffee.

The crisp quality of picture would not have been that new for some viewers though. Almost a year ago in July 2015 Canal+, the leading French pay-tv operator, got a head start going all HD. In doing so it became the first European TV platform to offer its entire bouquet in high definition. As part of this transfer to HD, the free TNTSAT dish bouquet, which is operated by the Canal+ Group, and carries all the channels of the national DTT offering, went HD as well. This meant that the 25 TNTSAT channels broadcast via SES satellites were already being beamed to earth in sharper quality than ever before in July 2015. TNTSAT’s dual SD and HD broadcasts have continued until now, but as of tomorrow, 26 April, channels will only be available in HD.

HD in the spotlight for Europe

Now that France can boast about being first European market to go all-in for HD, we see great promise for the rest of Europe.

The rise of HD is progressing, and satellite is undoubtedly driving it, being the TV reception mode with the largest number of HDTV homes in Europe by far. The number of HDTV homes in Europe has tripled over the past five years, and 56% of satellite TV homes now enjoy HD content. At the end of 2015, Germany was the HD champion with close to 20 million HDTV homes, of which 55% are served by satellite - followed by the UK with over 18 million, of which 53% are served by satellite. In France, the number of homes enjoying HD has multiplied by five between 2011 and 2015, 61% of those HDTV homes being served by satellite.

At SES we have had a front row seat to the intense growth of HD, with 78% of European Satellite HDTV homes receiving their TV channels from SES. Our year-on-year High Definition (HD) channels count has grown by 18%, to over 2,230 globally. In Europe, the number of HDTV channels we broadcast has grown by over 25% during 2015, to nearly 700 channels.

Still it doesn’t stop here. HD channels in Europe are expected to increase by 75% between 2015 and 2019, as noted by Euroconsult. Who ever said Europe lacks growth opportunities? With HD thriving and Ultra HD expanding, the broadcasting industry can certainly consider higher resolution as a key trend to stay.