Ready or Not, HDTV is Mandatory!


In the eye of the beholder

HDTV is a big entertainment train coming at the consumer 100 MPH.  In the US it took a bunch of years to transition viewing from B&W to color.  Now the government has said everything/everyone will go from SD to HD in less than three years and that finish line is next February.  Networks and stations are moving to beat the deadline and they’re well on their way.  Set manufacturers can’t wait for every household to make the transition even if the sets aren’t as big (expensive as they would like).  Content pipelines?  Well sure, kinda.  Ok so the squeeze the shows a little hard so it fuzzes up the quality of HD…sssooo??   The consumer?  Sure!  Right!!  How much???

See The Difference – Sales people love to show consumers how much better their TV shows will be with a big, beautiful, expensive HDTV screen.  Turns out though that as many as 50% get SD content on their HD set…but they’re happy.  Photo Source – Touchstone

“The government’s been in bed with the entire communications industry since the forties. They’ve infected everything.” Brill (Gene Hackman), Enemy of the State (1998)

Travel to even the most remote parts of the world. Visit some of the worst hovels. You’ll see a TV set. People may barely have the necessities but they do have their entertainment (escape) hours. Television is the common bond across all income levels…all walks of life. More than 1.150 million households have at least one TV set.

Figure 1 – Big Switch – Now that the CE manufacturers have convinced us that Tellywood delivers all the entertainment you’ll ever want in the privacy of your own home, they are ready to show you there’s a newer/better/more expensive route.  It’s called digital TV that frees up their bandwidth.  Source – iSuppl

A few countries have switched from analog to digital content distribution. For most it is still a work in progress. In the U.S. the transition started about 10 years ago, gained momentum last year, will be completed by February of 2009 …or else.

Never mind the CEA’s facts that:
– It required five years to achieve 10% household penetration of B&W, another year for 25% and a total of 9 years for 50% household penetration
– It took 14 years for color TV to reach 10% household penetration, 2 more years for 25% and 4 more years for 50% of the households

New Opportunities
Set manufacturers love the switch.

Retailers are happy.

Sales people will spin stories about the pros and cons of plasma vs LCD sets, the fantastic viewing experiences you will now enjoy, the benefits of family bonding with HighDef content.

They’ll explain the “important” differences between 480i/p, 720i/p, 1080i/p, 1440i/p.
Dude…it’s all about the picture.

Real HighDef – Admit it, some things really do look better in HighDef.  Especially Carmen Diaz on the Letterman show.

…and the price!

It’s not like the American home needs a new TV set.  According to CTAM (Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing):

  • 99% of the US households have at least one TV set
  • 47% have 3 or more
  • 23% already have HDTV sets and 22% of these households have two or more HDTV sets 


Like it or not next February stations across the country will broadcast nothing but digital signals. As Dean (Will Smith) said…  “Conspiracy theorists of the world unite.” So if you haven’t stumbled into a store already…now may be the time. Just don’t expect a lot of meaningful advice.

Online Research First
Do your own research like our wife who found tons of information to carefully consider including:
– — Report of the SMPTE Task Force on Digital Image Architecture
– – Properties of Human Visual Perception
– – section 5
– — Influence of Display Size and Picture Brightness on the Preferred Viewing Distance for HDTV Programs
– Screen size, resolution, viewing distance variables

Now you have to decide if you:
– want to obtain a digital-to-analog converter (taking advantage of your government’s discount coupon)
– subscribe to cable or satellite
– replace your antenna and get free OTA HD content
– do like our son and go the Internet TV Plus route

At the January Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we saw a dizzying array of options. Panasonic set the bar real high with their gigantic 150-inch Plasma screen.

Big, Beautiful – Panasonic took bragging rights for screen size at CES this year.  Impressive but the truth is set manufacturers are making most of their money by selling significantly smaller screens.

We could just see the wife when we told her we were going to knock out a wall in the house to install that little baby. It wouldn’t become the centerpiece of a new home theater, we’d have to knock out the wall to the garage and have our own drive-in! Admit it.  The luxurious home theater set-ups look fantastic in the magazines.

They also looked expensive.

The home theater market is growing steadily  as people spend more and more time watching TV.  According to Neilsen:
– in 1995 – 1996 families watched TV for 7:15 and 2005-2006 8:14
– individuals in the same years went from 3:59 to 4:35

Figure 2 – Pass the Popcorn —  When you’re really serious about your TV and DVD viewing nothing fits the bill like a big, beautiful home theater.  Sales and installations are showing excellent growth.  Source – Parks Assoc

Someone is watching our share! If you decide you’re simply going to buy a converter box, don’t forget the $40 coupon. Can’t find yours? Go to   That will show you where to find a store in your area that offers the coupons and the converter boxes. Getting the boxes delivered and coupons printed is still a “work in progress.”

So if you’re going to go that route don’t wait till the last minute.