Based on preliminary findings by IMS Research, Pace needs to hand out those foam “We’re No. 1!” fingers you see at sporting events.

IMS said that in 2009, Pace took over the No. 1 ranking for worldwide digital set-top boxes to pay-TV customers by knocking Motorola off of the top spot.

In 2008, Pace was third in the IMS rankings before increasing its shipments by 31 percent year-over-year in 2009. IMS said Pace continued to be aggressive in acquiring partnerships with pay-TV operators around the globe.

According to Rebecca Kurlak, co-author of the study, overall set-top box shipments for all vendors grew 15.2 percent year-over-year on a global basis from 2008 to 2009.

“Pace’s position as the 2009 market share leader can not only be attributed to the company’s December 2007 acquisition of Philips’ STB business, but also due to the company’s continued organic growth,” Kurlak said. “The Philips division, now Pace France, operates as a division that focuses on IP, DTT and linear TV services. This additional facility has allowed Pace’s headquarters in England to remain focused on traditional TV platforms and NDS CAS clients.”

For this year, IMS Research expects Pace to stay on its perch due to its recent partnership announcements of HD rollouts for Benelux satellite operator M7 Group and Malaysian satellite operator Astro, in addition to its large contract agreements with DirecTV, UPC and Viasat.

The top-five STB vendors were Pace, Motorola, Technicolor, Cisco and Humax. IMS said Motorola’s position came largely through its leadership in the cable sector, while Technicolor’s was based on sales to the satellite industry.

The study, which is called “The World Market for Set-Top Boxes and iDTVs,” provides detailed analysis of STB shipments and revenues for 68 countries.