Survey Says: We Don't Care About HDTV

You might not have noticed that sometimes a purchase has more than you wanted.

You might not have noticed that sometimes a purchase has more than you wanted. Do you use the Adobe Construction or Lotus Position bundled with your computer? When's the last time you put your car's automatic transmission into "2"?

So it shouldn't be a surprise that a lot of the folks buying HDTV-rez TVs ain't necessarily doing so on account of wanting to watch HDTV. Before you bite my imaginary head off, let me offer a couple of my positions on HDTV.

1. HDTV is inevitable. Ever since Baird's eight scanning lines, TV's gotten better and I ain't seen a reason why that'll stop.

2. HDTV is good. It usually looks better than non-HDTV, even on playback from a six-hour non-HDTV VHS tape.

Okay? May I continue with my rant now? Thank you.

3. There ain't any big consumer demand for HDTV. I say this despite all the studies supposedly to the contrary.


For instance, take the one released by Comcast last month. International Communications Research asked 750 households, and 43 percent said they'd probably never buy another ordinary TV. There's "proof" that consumers are demanding HDTV!

Yes? As best I recall, 43 percent is less than half. So, two years before Congress wants to shut down ordinary TV, more than half of the public says they still plan to buy it.

As for the 43 percent, they said "probably." That means they might change their minds when they get to the store.

In another study released last month, IDC asked 1,200 "likely TV purchasers" what they wanted and concluded it was "a 42-inch HD flat TV priced at less than $2,000 from a major consumer electronics (CE) vendor purchased at a familiar CE retail store."

Methinks they ain't going to find that. They can come mighty close though, if they go for what they think is HD instead of what really is. It's pretty easy to find a non-HDTV 42-inch plasma TV for under $2,000 these days.

The guy who keeps track of the numbers for the Consumer Electronics Association told a reporter in November that 2004 factory sales of plasma TVs were running about 60 percent non-HDTV. There's plenty of non-HDTV LCDs out there, too.

"But, Mario, 40 percent HDTV comes pretty close to matching the Comcast percentage. And surely the percentage will grow."

As Leslie Nielsen said, "Don't call me Shirley."

And the percentage ain't growing. In 2003, according to the same number cruncher, plasma factory sales were running 70 percent HDTV.

"But, Mario, people are buying more HDTVs than ever before, aren't they?"

It's hard to cover everything from A to Z in 600 words, so let me try just Advent and Zenith. Last month, your local Best Buy sold Advent HDTV sets (without digital receivers) for just $379.99.

They've got a 4:3 shape and a 27-inch diagonal. That means the picture's 21.6 inches wide, which means that a 16:9 HDTV picture will be about 12 inches high.

Visual acuity maxes out at an arc minute, so to see 1,080 scanning lines on that TV with perfect vision you need to sit three feet away. Zenith's L15V26C HDTV has also got a 4:3 screen, this time only 15 inches in diagonal. Want to see full HDTV rez on it? Sit a foot-and-a-half away. Or don't.

This is from a November study from Leichtman Research.

"While 65 percent of HDTV owners report that they are receiving HD programming from their cable or satellite TV company, industry analysis reveals that the true figure is about half of that total."

So even most HDTV-ed folks think non-HDTV's good enough. Go figure.