If an HDTV Falls in the Woods…

A surprising number of HDTV owners don’t view any HD content on their sets… and other interesting tidbits.

ABI Research released some highlights of its recent research on HDTV adoption and the viewing habits of Americans. While 41% of Americans have HDTV’s, only about half of those HDTV receive any sort of an HD signal. While it might not be too surprising that only one out of Americans can view HDTV in all its glory, it’s shocking that another one out of five think they are watching HD when they are just watching a blown up SD image.

Lay the blame at the feet of the cable companies. I’ve been to several living rooms where what’s sold as HD looks indistinguishable from an up-converted standard definition DVD. This isn’t something I want to be pondering at 2:00 AM as we’re perfecting the look of my next HD production.

Other interesting findings

  • DVRs are in a “significant minority” of households… but it’s still a minority. That’s surprising. TiVo became a verb three years ago. It took DVD players less time to supplant the VCR than it will take for the DVR to find its way into the majority of American living rooms. It’s like the electric garage door opener. Use a DVR once and you wonder how you ever lived without it. Does any other technology have such an evangelical following?
  • 45% of households use pay per view have used pay per view services. Yet most are unimpressed. The majority of pay per view customers use the services about once a month.

The pay per view trend will have the bigger impact on future television models than either the DVR or HDTV. Once again Americans show their preference for the all you can eat model over the a la carte approach. That means that ad-supported and subscription-based programming will be the dominant models well into the future. It’s no surprise to hear Apple, the king of pay per download, is exploring alternative business models for iTunes in the aftermath of Nokia’s “Comes with Music” campaign.

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