Wanted: HD OTA viewers

With about 790 days to go before broadcasters cease transmitting an NTSC signal and complete the conversion to DTV, an analyst from a highly respected research organization estimates that fewer than 2 million TV households in the United States actually receive a terrestrial broadcast HDTV signal.

Speaking after a presentation in November at a high-definition technology summit in Los Angeles, Mike Paxton, In-Stat senior analyst for the Converging Markets & Technologies Group, said his research indicates about 19 percent of the U.S. television households that own an HDTV set and receive high-definition programming do so via over-the-air broadcast. That percentage is a bit higher than the 13 percent of the 111.4 million TV households in the United States that rely on terrestrial broadcast, he said.

However, Paxton’s research indicates that only about 9.8 million television households in the United States are “HD programming” households and actually receive high-definition programming via broadcast, cable, satellite or IPTV. That number is only about 40 percent of the roughly 25 million U.S. households that own HDTV sets, he said.

Initially, interest in reception of HD terrestrial broadcasts was high among early adopters because broadcasting was the only real source viewers had for high-definition content, he explained. As a result, the percentage of those viewing HD via terrestrial broadcast is higher than all over-the-air homes.

However, over the past year Paxton has seen the growth of HD terrestrial households flatten out as high-definition programming has become widely available on cable and satellite. “There is not much growth opportunity on the terrestrial side,” he said.