D.C. Leads as HD Penetration Doubles Nationally

It all depends on how you define “penetration."

It all depends on how you define “penetration,” but Nielsen says its latest data place HDTV penetration at slightly more than 23 percent of all U.S. households. That’s nearly double the estimated penetration of a year ago (12.8 percent) but still indicates a big gap compared to other estimates that place HD penetration at least 10 percent higher—around 34 percent of all households.

Both sets of numbers are probably accurate (they’re nearly always based on shipments, rather than direct sales) but it points out a lingering problem with new HD consumers: A sizeable group who buy new HD sets never bother to take the extra step of securing HD channels from their cable or satellite provider or to set up an antenna to pull in HD terrestrial signals. A key reason? Lots of HD set owners still don’t realize they aren’t viewing HD content.

So let’s hope someone thinks to buy Barack Obama an HD big-screen for those White House living quarters next month. As far as penetration of HD viewers, Washington, D.C. (DMA no. 9), ranks at the top of the list at 31.1 percent, with runner-up Boston (DMA no. 7) at 30.5 percent, barely edging out the nation’s biggest market, New York City, (30.2 percent). Also high on the HD-viewer list are Seattle-Tacoma (DMA no. 14) at 29.8 percent and Philadelphia (DMA no. 4) at 29.1 percent.

Somewhat surprisingly, the major arts and cultural communities of Minneapolis-St. Paul (DMA no. 15) came in below the national penetration average (21.6 percent), along with Detroit (DMA no. 11) and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (DMA no. 16).

The Nielsen penetration numbers surely will climb after the holiday season is over, although no one is yet predicting by how much.

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