Most HDTVs Used for Viewing in Standard Definition

NEW YORK: Nielsen says 56 percent of U.S. households now have HDTV sets, but HD viewing continues to lag. Just 13 percent of total-day viewing on cable TV is in HD, the media measurement company reports. The ratio’s a bit higher on broadcast networks--19 percent.

“In other words, despite the billions of dollars that Americans have spent buying high-definition TVs, more than 80 percent of television viewing is still a standard-definition experience,” Nielsen said today.

About one-fifth of viewing on HDTV sets is via non-HD feeds. And although HD is available to everyone free over-the-air, the majority of U.S. households subscribe to cable or satellite and don’t switch to other sources. HD content is typically restricted to more costly premium programming tiers.

Nielsen broke out a few demographics on HD viewing, including genre and age. More people watch cable sports in HD than any other type of programming--21 percent of all equipped households. Viewing was highest among people 18-34, with 28 percent of that group tuning in. Just 2 percent of people 35-64 watched sports in HD, however. The older demo went primarily for news, with 20 percent watching. Of all HD-capable households, 15 percent watched news in the format. Entertainment edged out news with 16 percent. Just 2 percent of HDTV households watched kids programming in the higher-resolution format.

An ethnic breakdown of adoption indicated that Asian households exceeded all other groups. Around two-thirds of Asian households have HDTV. About half of African American homes have HDTV sets. White and Hispanic homes lay between the two.

The schism between HDTV set and content adoption has persisted throughout the introduction of the format. The disparity has stayed at roughly 10 percent since July of 2007.
-- Deborah D. McAdams