HDTV Owners Don’t Watch HDTV

No surprise here, really. InStat reported this week that 17 million of the more than 39 million U.S. households with at least one HDTV set do not have an HDTV signal source. That’s a little more than two out of every five. Now the good news is, I suppose, that a couple of years ago the estimate was that only half of the HDTV households had HDTV, so this does indicate a small gain.

But what’s going on here? The answer is that these new flat screen televisions look so much better than old picture tube TVs — especially with a digital signal from cable, satellite, or a DVD player — that it’s good enough for the average viewer. Most people think that watching a DVD on an HDTV is HDTV image because it looks so good. (And besides, they spent the extra for the 1080p upconverting DVD player, so it has to make it HD, right? Nope; standard DVDs are standard definition, no matter what you do to them.)

It’s really a shame that so many people aren’t taking advantage of the extra resolution that they paid for in their new HDTV sets. The fact is that HD programming does not have to cost more; it’s free with over-the-air broadcasts from all full-power television stations (at least, for those shows that are broadcast in HD). And if you have a digital cable service, you should be able to connect your TV directly to the cable without a settop box and get some HD channels. (You need the set top box for the scrambled premium channels, but you should be able to access the basic channels this way.)

There’s one more implication in this news, and that’s bad news for Blu-ray. If HDTV owners don’t care about whether they have an HD signal for their sets, they are not going to be rushing out to buy the HD Blu-ray players. And I don’t see this situation changing any time soon.