Skip to main content

HD Units Sell amid Lingering Ignorance, High Return Rates

A survey by the Visa credit card firm recently found a 23-percent jump in electronics purchases this season compared to last year--where "electronics" includes HD, ED, DTV and analog sets, portable DVD players, MP3 players, and the like. (The CEA estimates that about 85-percent of all DTV sets sold are HD-capable.)

At the same time, if you run an online search of HDTV news items this month for U.S. media, one of the most prominent stories that pops up is the recent finding from Forrester Research that although HD sets are now probably residing in about 16 million homes here in early 2006, only 7 million of those 16 households are, in fact, watching true 1080i or 720p. Clearly more than half of today's viewers with HD in the home are not, for a variety of reasons, really experiencing HD video-audio quality. (To make matters worse, apparently a lot of those viewers "think" they're watching HD.)

The most prevalent "victims" seem to be the viewers who are under the impression they're watching HD merely because the networks run logos at the beginning of most prime-time programs announcing that the shows "are available in HD."

Forrester and other researchers continue to conclude that many HD consumers simply are not told at the retail level--or not nearly enough by their cable or DBS providers--that they need some sort of HD conduit equipment like an HD STB to receive digital HD channels, or simply that they must subscribe to a digital service that includes HD fare. (As for terrestrial viewers with new HD sets, most viewers under 40 have no idea what a "TV antenna" is, indoor or outdoor.)

So while there has been speculation in recent years that a fairly high percentage of new HD set owners intentionally purchased their units primarily to view progressive-scan DVD movies, there is growing evidence that many consumers simply don't know what they're missing.

Without tapping into genuine HD content on HD sets, and since it's not unusual for analog stations to often look worse on HD sets than on older analog models (something that cable companies say they are working to alleviate), USA Today (opens in new tab) reports that the return-rate of HD sets to retailers is running higher than the historic return-rates for analog receivers.