Half of US Homes Have DTVs

Are you a “glass is half full” or “half empty” type of person? This story may mean different things to you, depending on your perspective.

The Consumer Electronics Association — CEA — put out a release on Friday trumpeting the good news that more than 50% of U.S. households now have “digital televisions”. The group points to the “record pace” of adoption as an important part of the transition to digital broadcasts in 2009.

Okay, so much for the “half full” Polyannas. Let’s see how the Grinch might spin this one. A bit more than 50% of the US households now have televisions with digital tuners; what about the other half? Since only about 25% of the US households only get their programming over the air, three out of four homes probably don’t have any need for the digital tuner; they connect their TVs to cable or satellite service. I may be going out on a limb here, but somehow I expect that there’s a correlation between lower income levels and a household falling into that 25% who rely on the free over the air broadcasts. And it’s also probably a safe bet that a large portion of this 25% are among the nearly half of US households that don’t have TVs with digital tuners yet. So I expect that the “good news” from the CEA may not be quite as rosy as they suggest.

While I’m at it, note that the statistic is for “digital television”, and not HDTVs. Almost all HDTVs now have digital tuners, but certainly not all TVs with digital tuners are high definition. So don’t jump to the conclusion that half the country has HDTV. We’re not there yet.