Analysts: US consumers like HDTVs better than HD programming

Fully 41 percent of TV owners in the US now possess a high definition TV, yet only 56 percent of those same consumers subscribe to an HD programming package, according to a new survey by ABI Research.

Together with other analysts' statistics, ABI's findings about HDTV ownership seems to indicate that interest in HD is finally on the rise in the United States. In research released last summer, for example, In-Stat discovered that interest in HD had actually fallen over the previous year among US consumers, while increasing in other countries, particularly France and South Korea.

But in a survey unveiled just before CES 2008 last January, the Consumer Electronics Association found a "big screen TV" took third place -- just after "computer" and "peace and happiness" -- among items that parents would like to receive as holiday items. The previous year, "big screen TV" landed in only the eleventh spot on the same question in the same survey.

While it's true that "big screen TV" is not synonymous with "HDTV," it appears that many consumers have since gotten their wishes granted with an HDTV set.

Why the change of heart? With the transition to all digital programming slated to take place on February 19 of next year, perhaps many consumers decided to go ahead and buy an HDTV, if they were going to need to get new equipment, anyway.

Falling prices of HDTVs, along with Blu-ray and HD DVD players over the past several months (particularly the latter), undoubtedly haven't hurt.

But with HD movies still costing much more than their non-HD counterparts, it might be surprising if consumers are choosing canned movies over broadcast content, unless they've determined the costs of HD programming packages to be similarly unpalatable.

Cesar Bachelet, an analyst at ABI, has suggested that HD programming providers need to do a better job of "highlighting what HDTV owners without an HD package are missing out on."

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