HDTV owners not watching in HD

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.