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Freeview homes to soar to 4m by end of 2004 says BBC

LONDON – The number of Freeview homes in the UK is believed to have passed the 2m mark just a year after it launched, a figure that looks set to rise to 4m by the end of next year, according to the BBC.

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Backed by the BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle, sales of the free-to-air platform, which launched on October 30 2002, are expected to rapidly accelerate during the run-up to Christmas.

This could result in the number of homes with the Freeview set-top box rising to 2.5m by the new year alone.

Freeview boxes have been selling at a rate of 25,000 a week this year. However, retailers are said to have reported that sales had doubled in the last fortnight to 50,000, according to Freeview general manager Matthew Seaman.

"Just a year after launch, Freeview has proved itself to be the missing piece in Britain's digital TV picture -- we're expecting a successful Christmas and we're now on the way to becoming a fully digital society," Seaman said.

The service provides users with 30 free digital TV channels and interactive services and more than 20 digital radio stations. TV channels include BBC News 24, BBC Three, BBC Four, Sky Travel and Sky Sports News.

This is soon to be joined by a new general entertainment channel from Disney, which is set to launch this winter.

According to research carried out by Freeview, the biggest attractions to the service are the lack of contract and the fact that all channels are free.

Freeview viewers are also believed to be drawn from a different demographic from Sky viewers, with 40% of Freeview viewers aged over 55, while just 16% of BSkyB viewers coming from this age group.

Research shows that around 90% of Freeview customers have no other digital TV in their house, and nearly 75% have never previously used a digital TV service.

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