Why HDTV is getting a fuzzy reception
(Page 2 of 2)
"About 40 percent of HDTV owners know that they aren't watching HDTV," says Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leichtman Research Group in Durham, N.H., whose company polled them. "About 17 percent ... believe they are watching HDTV but are actually not."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Some owners have convinced themselves that if they bought an HDTV, that must be what they're seeing. Some 80 percent of HDTV buyers are men, who may be reluctant to admit they made a mistake, Mr. Leichtman says.
"It's kind a male mentality of 'I bought it, I love it,' " he says. And there are "a lot of people who just don't care," Swann says.
They use their HDTVs to watch DVDs, which look much better than on an old analog TV, and when they're asked about not watching TV shows in high definition "they go, 'Aw, so what?' " he says.
In fact, if someone upgrades to, say, a 50-inch HDTV and receives an old analog signal, they can actually have worse picture quality "because it's blown up to a larger proportion," Leichtman says.
Manufacturers and retailers have little incentive to make sure that HDTVs are properly installed, he adds. "It's the job of satellite and cable TV to get those [HDTV] boxes out there into those homes."
But other factors are starting to push more consumers toward HDTV. For example, they will need an HDTV to take full advantage of the next generation of DVD players.
Two incompatible high-definition DVD technologies - reminiscent of the struggle between VHS and Betamax in the 1980s - are about to hit the market: HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Toshiba will have an HD-DVD player on store shelves next month that will sell for $499, Swann says. Netflix has reportedly said it will stock HD-DVD titles right away.
"That's the kind of thing that might help with word-of-mouth" to sell HDTV, he says.
So will the fact that videogames are starting to be produced in high-definition. And don't forget the Winter Olympics: NBC will broadcast hours and hours of live coverage in HDTV beginning this weekend.
Last week, Congress passed and sent to President Bush legislation that would end all analog TV broadcasts by February 2009, meaning that today's analog TVs will go black.
To receive the new digital signal, consumers will either need to buy a new digital TV or buy a converter for their analog set (the bill provides subsidies to help with the expected $40 to $80 cost). Many may decide to upgrade to HDTV then.
"The analog signal is going away," says George DeSesso, a spokesman for Best Buy, the consumer electronics retailer. Then people will move quickly to HDTV, he predicts. "It's like when we switched from cassettes to CDs," he says. "It's just going to become the accepted technology."
Until then, the best selling point for HDTV is the clear, lifelike picture itself, seen either at a friend's house or at a store, these experts say.
Recently, Mr. Board of Ipsos Insight went to Costco to buy a DVD player - and came back with an HDTV, too. "We didn't really need one," he says. "Our TVs were good enough ... [but] all I had to do was experience that quality of picture, and I said, 'Yep, I knew this day would come - and here it is.' "