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HDTV owners not watching in HD

Posted at 26 January 2009 23:31 CET by Jared Newman

Though the number of U.S. homes with HDTVs continues to rise, almost half of those homes aren’t watching high definition programming, a new study found.

In-Stat reports that 17 million of the 39 million U.S. households with HDTV, or 43.6 percent, don’t watch in HD. The finding is based on a recent survey of consumers and defines "HD programming" as paid high definition services from cable and satellite providers and free broadcasting over the air. Packaged media, such as Blu-ray disc and video games, are not included.

Michael Paxton, an analyst for In-Stat, told CDFreaks that there are two main reasons why so many HDTV owners are still watching in standard definition. Cost was a major factor, with consumers saying they didn’t want to fork over extra fees to lease an HD set-top box or to get HD channels. Also, consumers often said the amount of high definition programming wasn’t enough to justify the extra effort.

Those answers aren’t tied to any particular U.S. region or demographic, Paxton said. "It’s pretty much across the board for all people," he said. "We get the same answers why they’re not viewing HD programming on their HDTV sets."

In-Stat has been measuring this statistic for three years, and predictably, the number of people watching HD programming has come a long way. At the end of 2005, 19.1 million people had HDTVs installed, but only 6.8 million of those households watched high definition programming.

Back then, Paxton said, a lot of people simply didn’t realize they were watching in standard definition. Education on the difference between standard and high definition has improved since then, and that issue is no longer a major reason why consumers don’t get HD.

Paxton stopped short of revealing how much he thinks HD programming will rise in popularity this year. That information, he said, must be saved for the full study, which costs a cool $2,995 to read.

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There are 55 comments

Blown to smitherines
Posted on: 27 Jan 09 00:27
    For sure ... a SD digital picture is so good, compared to analogue, most people don't care.
    And most people are 12 o'clock blinkers (you know, those people whom's clocks are always blinking 12:00), and wouldn't have a clue how to exclude SD channels, or set the HD channels as favourites.
    MyCE Resident
    Posted on: 27 Jan 09 00:53
      I think part of the reason that more people are not watching HD television is that they don't realize that they can get their local channels in High Definition, over the air, for free...
      MyCE Resident
      Posted on: 27 Jan 09 00:58
        I just ordered a USB HDTV stick to see what I can snag OTA I did a search on AntennaWeb and things are looking up in my area. A couple years ago I checked and there was nada. Now, there is all kinds of stations!
        No longer with us
        Posted on: 27 Jan 09 01:39
          I have 2 HDTV's and pay for Charter HD service. Very poor reception, tons of dropouts to the point that I only watch the digital channels unless a game is on. Sports come in much better in HD and I switch to the digital channel when the picture freezes. I have called Charter and they have been unable to repair the problem since most of their infastructure locally is poor. HD channels other than FOX all come in great over the air with my $10 HDTV antenna. I am about 20miles away from the TV stations. I should note that in the last 2 months I've had no phone, internet or cable for 3 6+ hour periods too. Perhaps their trying to fix it although I doubt it. Many people I know purchased their HD sets mainly because large TV's were finally cheap and as an added plus their DVD's come in great.
          CD Freaks Member
          Posted on: 27 Jan 09 02:31
            I'm not sure I buy the results of the study. A quick count of friends and co-workers puts the number of people I know with HDTVs at around 25 or so, and all watch HDTV programming. Not one of the people I know with HDTV isn't watch HDTV programming. I doubt most people who invested in an HDTV don't know how to watch it. Otherwise, if they didn't know or care, why'd they switch and get one? Maybe the problem isn't that the people aren't watching, it's that they are, as debro calls them, "12 o'clock blinkers" and don't even know they are watching it.
            MyCE Resident
            Posted on: 27 Jan 09 03:03
              While agree its odd to have an HDTV and not watch HD. There is a reason for it. People want bigger tv's. You can't buy non-HD larger screens anymore. Within a few years I bet everything will be flat-panel HD regardless of size. I use the HD on my tv, but my parents don't, and aren't willing to shell out the 600 bux their cable company wants for an HD box/pvr. Some people just wanted a bigger tv, and weren't too worried about watching HD on it. As for me I don't really watch the SD channels anymore. Thanks to the CRTC in Canada they HD channels can't be sold seperately, they have to be attached to basic cable package or I'd just pay for the 30 HD channels I can get. Mostly used for sports.
              CD Freaks Junior Member
              Posted on: 27 Jan 09 03:57
                I believe it. Most people simply don't have a clue about anything. I deal with idiocy at work every day... the point of frustration I reach when I'm at work just can't be described without writing a book about it.
                MyCE Resident
                Posted on: 27 Jan 09 04:08
                  Some people "upgrade" their TV's simply due to the form factor of the newer flat panel TV's. HD is just an extra bonus that they might not take advantage of, as this study shows...
                  MyCE Rookie
                  Posted on: 27 Jan 09 05:15
                    Well with TWC you must go to 1000 or so to get hd channels. My brother-in-law did not know this so he was watching the non hd channels for months. I have Directv no confusion there. I own a Samsung DLP and any none hd channels look like crap, so I watch all hd channels on that set.
                    MyCE Resident
                    Posted on: 27 Jan 09 05:18
                      I can see why people don't want to pay extra for compressed HD through Cable or Satellite.I wouldn't either. If it wasn't for the people that "jumped" on the HD bandwagon so fast despite the extra fees, they wouldn't be charging extra for something that is going to be a standard anyways. To me, that is idiocy.
                      MyCE Senior Member
                      Posted on: 27 Jan 09 17:04
                        Why watch junk on HD anyway ?

                        SD will suffice and as the article says, people can't tell the difference. Makes you wonder why the hell people need new TVs anyway.

                        TV has single-handedly caused an acceleration in the rate of mental decay in our society. No wonder the government is pushing digital tv so hard.
                        MyCE Resident
                        Posted on: 27 Jan 09 17:12
                          SD and HD junk are the same thing, junk, regardless how good it looks. Most of the junk on TV nowadays isn't worth a squirt of piss more or less to watch.
                          No longer with us
                          Posted on: 27 Jan 09 19:12
                            Not every location has HD channels. In Colorado Springs, CO, there are six over-the-air channels, but only one broadcasts in high definition. And even with that one, most of the programming is standard definition.
                            New on Forum
                            Posted on: 27 Jan 09 21:34
                              I have a 50" tv. I don't bother to watch HDTV as I think the difference in quality is marginal. Any how most of the time I watch my PVR which is SD.
                              MyCE Member
                              Posted on: 27 Jan 09 22:16
                                I never watch TV. What's the point? My favorite TV Series can be watched online or even downloaded in 720p quality and the rest of programs are 100% crap.

                                Who would pay for HD content when 95% of it is pure junk? Not me, but I'm glad some does and provides me with H.264 files of the best shows.
                                MyCE Member
                                Posted on: 27 Jan 09 22:18
                                  Hum if you can't see the difference between SD and 720p on a 50", you are sitting way too far from your screen.

                                  I can agree 720p vs 1080p it's hard to notice sometimes, but SD vs HD...seriously?
                                  MyCE Resident
                                  Posted on: 27 Jan 09 22:29
                                    yah, that's a bit hard to swallow. 720p/1080i compared to normal SD broadcasts are night and day differences.
                                    New on Forum
                                    Posted on: 27 Jan 09 22:34
                                      Let me guess, it's a PBS station.
                                      Blown to smitherines
                                      Posted on: 27 Jan 09 22:50
                                        Once you hit about 30ish, your eyes will start to degrade.

                                        I'm not talking about short sightedness/long sightedness and other lens related issues, the actual sensors just stop working, and your eyes lose resolution.

                                        After having my eyes tested, and discovering the incredibly bad res my left eye seems to be picking up, I'm shocked to discover that it's significantly better than average for people my age. My right eye by comparison is amazing, apparently.

                                        So, now much of the population is well above 30, and if you have a 1/2 decent upscaler (like the sony bravia engine X/W series TV's) the difference isn't so pronounced as the run-of-the-mill TV's out there, and really isn't that noticeable - especially if you didn't know the difference anyway.

                                        Lol@Ramza (below).
                                        MyCE Senior Member
                                        Posted on: 28 Jan 09 01:03
                                          over here we don't need to pay to watch HD, we've got freesat, and if you have a satelite dish already up, then even better!!
                                          MyCE Resident
                                          Posted on: 29 Jan 09 01:21
                                            "over here we don't need to pay to watch HD, we've got freesat, and if you have a satelite dish already up, then even better!!"

                                            It's just a shame there are only 3 broadcasters of HD material and that you 1. have to change channels for BBC HD and it's HD channel does not always show what is currently being shown on the other BBC channels. 2. ITV you have to press a red button to get the 'hidden' HD channel. 3. Channel 4 only has HD on Sky because of licensing terms. So no C4 on Freesat yet. 4. There is no auto switching of HD content. If you have a Freesat HD box it should be a simply a matter of having an option on the box to respond to a HD flag sent over the air that auto switches to HD when HD material is being broadcast on the currently viewed channel. But there is no provision for it from the UK HD initiative. 5. It's not 1920x1080 but a variant with 1440x1080.

                                            I am sure there are more downside's but as you can see the UK HD system is CRAP! No thought was put into it whatsoever. Now they want to broadcast HD over Freeview. That will be a farce.
                                            No longer with us
                                            Posted on: 29 Jan 09 07:46
                                              I find it astonishing how some people can even write here that there is no difference between SD and HD...obviously, some people need to get a new eyeglass or contact prescription...

                                              I do think a lot of people don't realize that you can get HD channels over the air...I live in NYC metro area, and there are plenty of HD channels to choose from...of course, the cable, phone and satellite companies in my area carry almost all the HD channels in their lineups...I know its tough to spend those extra bucks for HD on your service if you don't get many HD channels over the air, but it is worth it...BTW: to those who say TV is crap...why bother posting to this forum? No one really cares what you think about TV.
                                              MyCE Member
                                              Posted on: 29 Jan 09 12:35
                                                For the same reason some post graphic card comparison between PC, PS3 and X360 : because we can and are allowed to.
                                                CD Freaks Junior Member
                                                Posted on: 29 Jan 09 19:57
                                                  I think his point is that crappy TV is still crappy in HD.
                                                  MyCE Senior Member
                                                  Posted on: 29 Jan 09 20:48
                                                    yeah deadman, it is pretty dire over here, but i was just saying that you don't have to pay monthly fee's for HD over here, unless you stick to SKY!

                                                    when a good alternative comes along(really fancy freesat) then i'll look into it, but for now, i'll keep adding to my bluray collection!
                                                    New on Forum
                                                    Posted on: 29 Jan 09 21:48
                                                      I don't know if it's comcast or the channel itself but a lot of the so called HD programs are shown as if you used the fill function on your widescreen TV. Everybody looks 10 to 20 pounds heavier and it just looks distorted. Is this just another comcast ripoff?
                                                      New on Forum
                                                      Posted on: 30 Jan 09 00:17
                                                        I said I couldn't see much difference between HD and SD. There may be two reasons for this:
                                                        1. I am well over 30 and yes I do wear glasses.
                                                        2. I live in oz and we have Pal SD TV which (I believe) is a higher res than NTSC.
                                                        So whatever the reason I truly don't see much difference. I wish I did because I was looking forward to seeing HD, but am sadly disappointed with the result.
                                                        MyCE Member
                                                        Posted on: 30 Jan 09 00:21
                                                          You need a HDTV labeled HD Ready or Full HD to watch HD signals, otherwise it's downscaled to SD on your TV... No wonder you are not seeing a difference!

                                                          PAL SD is 576 horizontal lines, NTSC SD is 480, but the new HD resolutions are 720p and 1080p.
                                                          Blown to smitherines
                                                          Posted on: 30 Jan 09 01:51
                                                            In Sydney, all 5 major television stations have HD channels. In regional cities, you're lucky to get 1 or 2, and in rural areas, they don't seem to have any, except occasional HD-SBS, which broadcasts low-def handycam footage on HD. (ROTFLMAO).

                                                            Assuming you actually get HD (city areas) Prime, Seven & Ten occasionally have sporting events in real HD and the news appears to be HD, but the vast majority series are still obviously upscaled from SD at the station .. and look pretty poor.
                                                            That said, the real HD channels appear much better than the SD alternative channels, even if it is just upscaled.

                                                            There's just no comparison with a Bluray though, even a badly mastered BD is significantly better in clarity than anything broadcast by the TV stations.

                                                            Analogue Pal is 576i, not 576p There's a huge difference in quality between analogue 576i and the digital signals which are broadcast as 576p - it's almost embarassing that Analogue has lasted as long as it has.

                                                            But HDTV here is 1080i anyway, not 1080p - I'm yet to find anything broadcast as 720p in Oz, which is shame since 720p is superior to 1080i in nearly everything, except sitcoms, talkshows & the news.
                                                            No longer with us
                                                            Posted on: 30 Jan 09 02:17
                                                              How does a USB HDTV stick let you know what you can get OTA?
                                                              No longer with us
                                                              Posted on: 30 Jan 09 02:19
                                                                Do you have a rooftop antenna to get stations 20 miles away? I'm approx. the same distance away but with hills and woods in between. I'm afraid it would be a waste of time and money with the distance and terrain involved.
                                                                New on Forum
                                                                Posted on: 30 Jan 09 14:03
                                                                  I think it's cost, also, but I don't think most people understand analog versus digital, anyway. They only care about the picture quality. If they bought an HD set then they must be getting HD, and that's digital, isn't it?! Why wouldn't you, the salesman said it was. The new displays look better than the old set. Let's see, when am I going to get my next free check from the government. I want it all, and I want it now!
                                                                  No longer with us
                                                                  Posted on: 30 Jan 09 18:57
                                                                    Here's a question: Is your life actually improved in any way, shape, or form by watching tv in HD? I personally can't see how it is.
                                                                    I recently tried to buy a small secondary tv for my den. I quickly realized that nobody carries anything but HD tv's in their stores anymore. Then I learned that my cable company only offered about a dozen channels in HD and would want me to pay more than the outrageous price I am already paying for the selection of crap that gets pumped in to my house. My only other option in my area is to go to DirectTV and pay a boatload for installation, box, etc. to get a full range of HD channels and that's just to get the two or three channels I would actually want in HD. So, I can totally see why people have HD tv's and aren't watching HD programming. They wanted a new tv, bought they only available new tv, and refused to pay even more than what they were already paying to watch crap. I'm sure most of them are more than happy to watch movies on DVD/Blu-ray in higher resolution.
                                                                    New on Forum
                                                                    Posted on: 30 Jan 09 19:37
                                                                      My cable rates are high enough with an SD box. Most programming is not worth the extra cost of HD.
                                                                      BTW, I also buy my wine in a box.
                                                                      Icy Mt.
                                                                      MyCE Resident
                                                                      Posted on: 30 Jan 09 22:18
                                                                        I agree with debro on the 12:00 blinkers. $20 will get you a powered antenna from Target and you can pull in HD over the air. We get ABC, NBC, CBS, WB, Fox, and PBS and we live 15 miles from the city center. There is no comparison between analogue cable or broadcast and a 1080i air signal, you would know if you were watching one. My wife, who doesn't get anything technical, gasped the first time she saw the CSI Vegas intro in HD because she got vertigo from the skyline shot. While I tend to agree that crap is crap in analog broadcast or HD cable, it's a toss up for me on college football between watching in HD or going to the game. The live show is a little clearer but they don't let you drink beer. Having said that, another $50 a month to pay the robbers at my cable company to deliver in digital? Not bloody likely.
                                                                        No longer with us
                                                                        Posted on: 30 Jan 09 23:10
                                                                          LOL, too funny dude, too finny!

                                                                          Edit by admin: removed unrelated link
                                                                          No longer with us
                                                                          Posted on: 30 Jan 09 23:13
                                                                            The reason my parents haven't switched is because they can't receive HDTV signals from where they are. They're 60 miles from the nearest TV stations, about 80 miles from the other city's stations. They MIGHT be able to get the closest stations if they upgrade to a long-distance antenna, but they're not going to be able to receive the other set of stations at all. Pity analog is superior in that respect.
                                                                            No longer with us
                                                                            Posted on: 30 Jan 09 23:43
                                                                              There's also a problem of no closed captioning which accounts for some of this data as well. Whenever my deaf cousin comes over or my girlfriend (who speaks English as a second language and likes to be able to read just incase she mishears something) is around they want the subtitles on. Which means no HD.
                                                                              No longer with us
                                                                              Posted on: 31 Jan 09 00:14
                                                                                i think you are correct. i was dumbfounded when i found this out recently!
                                                                                No longer with us
                                                                                Posted on: 31 Jan 09 01:08
                                                                                  I have Time Warner Cable here in Southeast Texas and have asked them several times when we will see more HD programming. They won't give me a straight answer. The big cities have TONS of HD programming. But unless you live in a big city, forget it. You get at most 10 HD channels (some of which don't even broadcast in HD, they just say HD). It's extremely frustrating.
                                                                                  No longer with us
                                                                                  Posted on: 31 Jan 09 03:10
                                                                                    Only techies care about HD. The average person is not concerned over programing being 480,720, or 1080. All they care about is that its good enough. Television has become less important just as its quality has made a leap to digital. In my opinion HD is overblown.
                                                                                    A lot of programs still are in standard definition even though its on a HD channel. Yes, its in wide screen resolution. But that does not make it HD.
                                                                                    No longer with us
                                                                                    Posted on: 31 Jan 09 03:14
                                                                                      Were one of the households with an HD set, and actually no cable or satelliete at all. We looked at Dish, but the 2 year commitment and only 1 receiver without an old fashioned phone line turned us off, as we will likely have another HD set soon, and probably will move within 2 years. We looked at Directv but the monthly cost is more than were willing to pay, and again a 1 year commitment.

                                                                                      In small towns cable is not an option. We could pick up a couple networks 90 miles away with a great antenae + tower + booster, but not interested in the programming other than sports. Thought about a blu ray player, but the dvd's cost more and we can't burn them to our media center. So we use our media center pc with our dvd collection, hulu, and an upconverting dvd player for the occasional redbox pickup
                                                                                      No longer with us
                                                                                      Posted on: 31 Jan 09 03:43
                                                                                        I think quite a lot of folks just don't understand that buying an HDTV set and plugging it in doesn't automatically give them HD. They think it's a display technology, so anything you watch on an HDTV set must inherently be displayed "in HD". They don't expect or realize you should have to do anything particular to see HD displayed on an HDTV set.
                                                                                        There needs to be a spec that "just works" this way, so the HD signal will always be found and displayed automatically whenever it's available for the source you're watching.
                                                                                        Then the only way they can screw this up is if they use analog component/composite RCA cables to connect their fancy digital HDTV set to their cable/DVD boxen. Like my dad does. <facepalm>
                                                                                        No longer with us
                                                                                        Posted on: 31 Jan 09 04:03
                                                                                          I'm in Canada and it would cost me about $300 to buy an HD box, plus at least $60/month more for programming, just to get some HD shows. There will still be shit-all on tv other than reality shows and reruns, and my tv does a decent enough job with SD that I really can't justify it.
                                                                                          No longer with us
                                                                                          Posted on: 31 Jan 09 07:37
                                                                                            bull**** I live in the springs and the only local that doesn't come in hi-def over the air is ABC.
                                                                                            New on Forum
                                                                                            Posted on: 31 Jan 09 07:43
                                                                                              I think quality of programming is more important than picture quality. In recent years the quality of the programming has declined while the picture quality has improved. Most people don't really care as long as it looks good enough.
                                                                                              No longer with us
                                                                                              Posted on: 31 Jan 09 07:54
                                                                                                This survey doesn't count people like me who have cheap cable that isn't promoted as being HD, yet still provides some channels in HD. I'm not sure if there are millions and millions of us, but it's gotta be worth a few extra percentage points!
                                                                                                No longer with us
                                                                                                Posted on: 31 Jan 09 20:19
                                                                                                  where the hell do you people the mountains, in caves?
                                                                                                  MyCE Senior Member
                                                                                                  Posted on: 31 Jan 09 22:07
                                                                                                    I think quality of programming is more important than picture quality. In recent years the quality of the programming has declined while the picture quality has improved. Most people don't really care as long as it looks good enough.

                                                                                                    er.. right, instead of complaining in here about the quality of the programming, why don't you complain to the tv programme makers? i thought the title was 'HDTV owners not watching in HD', not 'the quality in tv programmes are crap'?
                                                                                                    MyCE Resident
                                                                                                    Posted on: 31 Jan 09 23:14
                                                                                                      1. Why pay for compressed HD channels?

                                                                                                      2. Why pay for HD channels when a lot of them don't have HD shows broadcasted?

                                                                                                      This is why most people don't see a difference in picture quality because there isn't in this case. I don't have a HDTV but my mother does and the difference between NBC SD and NBC HD is very little from what I have seen and my eyes are just fine. I even tweaked her TV with Digital Video Essentials. My SD TV has a superior image to her tv since most HDTV suck at displaying SD.

                                                                                                      3. Why pay for the extra cost of getting HD channels?

                                                                                                      4. Why continue to get ripped off from Cable and Satellite companies for overpriced BS?

                                                                                                      This is how ridiculous it has got in my area with Time Warner.

                                                                                                      $72 bucks just for the lower tier Digital Package

                                                                                                      This doesn't include fee's and taxes which could push it up nearly $20 more. Sorry paying $100/month for mostly junk is just stupid.
                                                                                                      MyCE Senior Member
                                                                                                      Posted on: 31 Jan 09 23:37
                                                                                                        well, it might have something to do with the fact that NBC HD may not show all of their channel/s as HD even though its a HD channel!! over here in the UK, the HD channels (sky) are claiming its a HD channel but half of what they show on the channels are still SD!! I have seen planet earth on BBC-HD (on SKY again) though and it is definately HD!! you can tell the difference!!

                                                                                                        I wouldn't pay an extra &pound;10 a month for it though, especially when you can get FREESAT subscription free, and a HD box for &pound;150
                                                                                                        No longer with us
                                                                                                        Posted on: 01 Feb 09 02:29
                                                                                                          I bet the proportion is even higher than that. I bet a substantial minority who are PAYING for HD service are not actually WATCHING in HD on their HDTVs, due to imporper connections or settings. This is the case for the one family I know that is actually paying for HD through their cable.
                                                                                                          MyCE Resident
                                                                                                          Posted on: 01 Feb 09 17:39
                                                                                                            "well, it might have something to do with the fact that NBC HD may not show all of their channel/s as HD even though its a HD channel!!"

                                                                                                            Thats what I meant. That is why people are saying they don't see a difference in picture quality.
                                                                                                            MyCE Resident
                                                                                                            Posted on: 02 Feb 09 22:51
                                                                                                              It's a USB antenna, which can handle HD signals.
                                                                                                              MyCE Senior Member
                                                                                                              Posted on: 02 Feb 09 23:38
                                                                                                                well, TBH, if you're gonna pay for HD, the only real reason to have it at the moment is for the soccer games over here on HD, but since i make scrooge look charitable, i'll just put in HD freesat(no subscription)!!

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