Nielsen: HD Audiences Far Lower Than Widely Assumed

Nielsen has released some long-awaited ratings figures on HDTV viewership and the numbers are much lower than the Consumer Electronics Association and other industry groups had been using for the past several months. Nielsen said while 13.7 percent of U.S. households are equipped with an HDTV set and HDTV tuner capable of receiving HDTV signals (“HD Capable”), a mere 11.3 percent of American homes (averaged nationally) actually “receive” at least one HD network or station (“HD Receivable”).

The highest percentage of HD Receivable dwellings is in television’s largest market, New York (17.5 percent), followed by Los Angeles with 17.1 percent in Nielsen’s DMA no. 2. The ratings firm said among Latino households, HD Receivable penetration was 8.2 percent, while African-American homes were 6.9 percent HD Receivable.

The lowest HD Receivable numbers among the major markets was Detroit, where its DMA ranking matched its penetration percentage, at 11.

The new figures sharply contrast with the assumed penetration rates most often used by the TV industry and, subsequently, by the mainstream and trade media—HD Capable numbers that were estimated at 32 percent, or one-third of all homes. The higher numbers were based on product shipments and other factors in recent years.

The CEA, for its part, is sticking by its higher HD penetration numbers. “We think Nielsen is off on their estimates,” Spokeswoman Megan Pollock told HD Notebook Wednesday.

Nielsen said its HD survey numbers were limited to metered markets, using national and local People Meter samples. HD numbers will be updated quarterly.