Happy HDTV New Year!

Every year, January gives journalists a fat pitch over the plate, and they can’t resist swinging at the chance to declare that the coming year will be The Year of The Whatever! This is especially true for technology topics. One year it was networks, then it was WiFi. For some, last year it was the iPod. Maybe someone will claim 2006 as the Year of Television on Tiny Cell Phone Screens.

I’m only human, and I can’t resist taking a swing at this myself, though it really feels like shooting fish in a barrel. So here’s my daring prediction: 2006 will be the Year of HDTV. Fortunately for my self-respect, I do have some coherent reasons for this choice.

Prices are falling below the pain point. Small LCD HDTVs were selling under $500 this holiday season, and I expect that competition and possible over-supply will help keep prices moving downward. So more people will be able to afford the cool new screen that they want.

Digital content distribution by cable, satellite, and terrestrial broadcast is expanding, and the phone companies are just starting to weigh in with television content over the Internet. (Have you watched Two and a Half Men on Yahoo! yet?) The date for the end of analog terrestrial transmissions have been set for early 2009, which is going to get people thinking about making a change.

And as others have already noted, we’re about to encounter a perfect storm of content that could promote HDTV worldwide. We’ve got the NFL Superbowl coming up as we do every year, but we’ve also got the World Cup soccer matches (the “other” type of football) and the Winter Olympics in Turino, Italy. Sports is a major driving force behind the the adoption of HDTV — just ask ESPN which now has two HD channels — and we’re facing a triple-whammy of major events this winter.

So I expect that HDTV sales are going to continue to climb rapidly this year. Maybe this will also be the year that you get an HDTV of your own.

And whether I’m right or wrong, most of all I hope that you enjoy a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2006!