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Newspaper article points to confusion over HDTV

As local stations continue their progress in relocating broadcast auxiliary service to a portion of the 2GHz band and grapple with whether and when to launch HD ENG, a story in the Dec. 29 edition USA Today is cause for concern that many consumers — including those who have recently purchased an HDTV — just don’t understand high definition television.

For stations considering spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to convert news studios, field acquisition equipment, production equipment, microwave trucks and newsrooms to HD, that news can be disconcerting.

USA Today reporter Paul Davidson quotes Best Buy senior vice president of consumer electronics Mike Vitelli as saying that the lack of knowledge among consumers about what they are buying and the appearance of NTSC programming views on digital screens can bring on “buyer’s remorse.” The story, entitled “Digital confusion frustrates TV buyers” quotes Vitelli as saying that returns of HDTV sets are “notably higher” than returns of ordinary TVs.

For local broadcasters, who have often questioned the existence of a business model that justifies the expense of converting their SD production and news operations to HD, the story is a double-whammy of sorts because it both documents and acknowledges the frustration some HD buyers experience, but it also casts HD in a less than positive light in the most broadly circulated daily newspaper in the United States with nearly 2.3 million readers.

The story drew on statistics from the Leichtman Research Group and findings of a recent survey sponsored by Scientific-Atlanta illustrating the dramatic nature of confusion in the market over high definition among consumers and HDTV owners. However, the story holds out hope that agreement among lawmakers on a Feb. 17, 2009, end to analog transmission will propel consumer acceptance of HDTV.

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