The Seven Network may face a bigger struggle than it thinks in its plans to introduce the TiVo digital recorder to Australia next year.

The full details are not yet available, but there’s a trend emerging in the sale of digital TV receivers in Australia that the media reports on the TiVo venture have failed to mention. Australians are favouring integrated plasma or LCD TVs over stand-alone set-top digital tuners — consumers clearly want a one-stop TV unit.

The TiVo will offer features not available in a conventional set-top box or integrated unit, but Seven will have to market it hard and price it low enough to make it  compelling to consumers.

Even Foxtel is finding it hard to get a rapid take-up of its stand-alone IQ recorder: It has around 1.3 million subscribers but has only managed to persuade around 200,000 of them to take up IQ (which is like a TiVo in many respects). A lot of TV owners just don’t want to know.

The trend in the take-up of digital TV was highlighted by the media regulator, ACMA, yesterday, but it too missed the trend towards integrated sets. Figures from Digital Broadcast Australia earlier this month revealed that more than 2.547 million receivers have now been sold into the local market, or a penetration of 28% of Australia’s 7.8 million homes. Around 247,000 sets were sold in the March quarter. DBA said that strong retail demand for LCD and plasma televisions equipped with integrated digital tuners saw these units account for 61%t of all digital television receivers sold to Australian retailers and installers.

At the same time, there are a couple of issues emerging in technical standards that also pose problems. These were raised in last week’s Senate estimates hearings in questioning of SBS managing director Shaun Brown.

SBS is considering a change in technical specs because it is outsourcing its broadcast and master control facilities to the UK-based RedBee group. RedBee operates in MPEG 4 format in Europe and wants to broadcast SBS here in that format, but the other networks are nowhere near going to MPEG at this stage. It’s going to be a headache.