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Consumers choosing free digital over paid television

THE digital switchover has had the unexpected side-effect of encouraging more consumers to axe their television subscriptions and move to free TV services.

More than 1,000 consumers have ditched paid television services and moved to free digital TV services in recent months.

Aertv.ie, which provides free TV via computer, said its traffic had soared by 28pc since last month's switchover.

And installation company billfreetv.ie said it had seen a big upsurge in families who can no longer afford pricey subscriptions to Sky and UPC getting systems installed that allow them free access to over 100 Irish and British stations.

"Our typical customers are families that are feeling the squeeze so they're looking at their bills and going, hang on I could save a bit here," said billfreetv.ie owner Turlough O'Connor.


"It's gaining momentum because people who had never heard of free TV became aware of it through the digital switchover, but it was starting to happen anyway because there's not many areas of life where you can make those sort of savings," he said.

Consumers were paying at least €300 a year for basic packages with Sky and UPC, but were often unaware that all the main RTE, BBC, ITV and dozens of more channels could be received free, including high definition and specialist ones.

The main disadvantage for some people was that you couldn't get Sky Sports on a free service, and it didn't offer the on-demand services, Mr O'Connor said.

However, the combiboxes do allow for recording, pausing and rewinding of live broadcasts via a plug-in hard drive.

Aertv said their viewership figures showed increasing numbers of consumers were watching TV on phones, iPads and computers.

The length of time spent watching TV online had also soared by 31pc with viewers watching an average of 40 minutes during primetime TV hours.

"The digital switchover has seen a lot of people question the way they watch TV and many more are choosing mobile devices," said Aertv director Philippe Brodeur.

Aertv allows viewers to watch all the Irish Saorview channels online for free, but British stations are only available at a cost if they sign up for broadband with parent company Magnet Networks.

Irish Independent