1/4 Of HDTV Owners Do Not Realize They Are Not Watching HDTV

If you didn’t understand what the title of the article meant, you’re probably one of the people’s we’re talking about. According to AZ Central:

Anyone who thinks consumers understand high-definition television should consider a recent survey by Leichtman Research Group.

It concluded that close to one-half of the 24 million households with HDTVs don’t actually watch high-definition programs because they haven’t obtained the necessary hardware from their cable, phone or satellite operators.

And about one half of those viewers – about six million – don’t even realize they’re not watching HDTV. Bruce Leichtman, the market research firm’s president, figures the confusion is partly because the consumers spend so much money on the set they can’t believe they’re not getting what they paid for. “This is cognitive dissonance,” he says.

Attention: If you have an HDTV you need to an HD antenna or a HD capable cable box or an HD satellite dish. Something. If you don’t, you are not watching HDTV. Also, not every channel is going to magically be in HD if you buy an HDTV. For pete’s sake! —MEGHANN MARCO

Consumers confused over TV technology [AZ Central]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Nick says:

    Wouldn’t that be a quarter of HDTV owners? (And, BTW, that is not cognitive dissonance.)

  2. ChewySquirrel says:

    Haha, i think the terms “hd” and “hdtv” send off some sort of positive reaction in the brain. I mean even the regular abc news channel has a logo in the bottom right corner of the screen that says abc news HD. Than of course someone sees the HD and they’re like “oh yeah that does look crisper let me watch this channel” or something

  3. ChewySquirrel says:

    Haha think the terms “hd” and “hdtv” send off some sort of positive reaction in the brain. Even the regular abc news channel has a logo in the bottom right corner of the screen that says ABC News HD. Probably because some people will go ” Oh wow HD, well now that i look st it it does look crisper!” or something

  4. Some TV’s have HD Tuners in them, so you might be watching HD and not know it. That being said, your original channels aren’t going to now be in HD just because you have a TV, they’re still going ot be in regular TV – the HD channels will be different.

  5. 44 in a Row says:

    I completely, completely believe this, and I know first-hand people who have experienced this. What amazes me the most is that people going out and spending that kind of money on a TV don’t take the time to research what, exactly, they’re buying. But, such is America.

  6. calavera says:

    I’m not that surprised by this. My girlfriend even chooses to watch non-hdtv versions of channels that we have in high def because she doesn’t know what channel the HD version is on.

    On another note, the headline on the item is seriously misleading, since the quote itself says that half of HALF (not all) HDTV owners don’t realize they’re not watching HDTV. I never finished high school, but I believe that equals one fourth.

  7. 44 in a Row says:

    Another thing I’ve seen happen: someone buys a new TV, and gets an HD cable box or antenna, but doesn’t realize that the channel mapping isn’t the same. On Cablevision, for example, CBS is 2, but CBS-HD is 702. Lots of people have no idea that the HD feed isn’t replacing the SD feed that was there before, and that they need to look to a different channel number.

  8. jeblis says:

    I’ve blocked out the non-hd channels where the hidef ones are available. Refuse to get DirectTV with their HiDef-Lite bitrates.

    1080p HDTV
    1080i Tivo S3
    1080i Hidef Cable DVR
    1080p PS3/Bluray player
    1080p upscaling DVD player
    720p xbox 360

    Netflix bluerays where available

    all hdmi/optical

    Yeah I know what hi-def is and I’m getting it.

  9. joelion says:

    yep, not surprising at all. My in-laws have the same Samsung 50″ DLP we have, and whenever we go to their house, my mother-in-law is ALWAYS watching the SD channels. At first, I would always switch to the HD version and say “look, isn’t that so much better?”, and she would be like “oh…. hmmm. yeah… i guess so?”
    Just completely nondiscerning at all. oh well, not my f’ing problem.

  10. Lewisham says:

    I don’t know why anyone is “amazed” by people who don’t understand HDTV. The way it’s been advertised makes it perfectly reasonable to believe that buying an HDTV will let you watch HDTV. This is particuarly true when a tuner is included in the TV (ie. all of them) but of course, that tuner doesn’t output HDTV. How is anyone supposed to know this?

    1080p/720i? These things mean nothing. The HDTV standard is horribly consumer-unfriendly.

    There’s been a failure to communicate properly to consumers from the TV manufacturers and the TV providers, other than “HDTV is good, you should buy one.”

  11. Mr. Gunn says:

    Bet they’ve all got their stuff hooked up with $200 Monster cables, too.

  12. sam says:

    Another thing I’ve seen happen: someone buys a new TV, and gets an HD cable box or antenna, but doesn’t realize that the channel mapping isn’t the same. On Cablevision, for example, CBS is 2, but CBS-HD is 702. Lots of people have no idea that the HD feed isn’t replacing the SD feed that was there before, and that they need to look to a different channel number.

    Otherwise known as my parents. I spend at least a half an hour every time I go to their apartment reprogramming all of the season passes on their HD DVR box so that they will record the HD versions of shows instead of the “normal” versions. I keep trying to explain to them that all they need to do is go to channel 701 and browse around there with the on-screen programming guide, but they complain that it’s “too hard to remember”.

  13. karmaghost says:

    I don’t blame some of these people; HD and how it works is pretty damn confusing. It took me a while to get a grip on all the terminology and how everything works. People just assume, in this “plug-and-play” era that if they buy an HD TV, all they have to do is plug it in and voilà! it’s HD! Often times, this is the same with “widescreen” content; people switch their TVs to widescreen and don’t realize that the image isn’t 16:9 at all, it’s just being stretched.

  14. faust1200 says:

    Hey if they don’t realize it don’t spoil it for them! Ignorance IS bliss.

  15. Vilgrom says:

    Today, my brother and sister-in-law outlined plans to buy an HDTV at Walmart with the money from their tax return.

    I’ve tried to fill them in on this new-fangled technology, but they’re more concerned about how they’re going to mount their TV onto their wall than they are over any nonsense about “widescreen” and “not every channel being in high definition.”

    They think High Definition and LCD are one in the same.

  16. shoegazer says:

    HD was never about improving image quality; it was always a branding exercise to shift more televisions. It’s like, oh I don’t know, organic. A word designed to impart quality without being very specific about the benefits.

  17. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I would TOTALLY buy an organic HDTV.

  18. Ah yes. An obvious result of a technology “upgrade” that’s really nothing more than an excuse to spend money: You find out that there are plenty of people spending the money who don’t even know (or sometimes, care) what they’re actually getting.

    Not that I’m complaining. I have a big belly-laugh on a regular basis as I watch other people spend thousands of dollars on something that’s basically exactly what they already have, with extra marketing. By the time HD is actually worth something — when it’s included in the price you pay for it, and most shows are utilizing it, and it makes a difference that’s actually detectable — I’ll buy it for 1/10 or less what they’re paying.

    Entertainment AND savings, yeah!

  19. mewyn dyner says:

    This is what I’ve been saying about HDTV for a while. The only people who care are the mid-to-high end consumers. Regular people don’t really care. Just look at how many people buy the “fullscreen” version of DVDs because they think they are missing something, and all the people who stretch 4:3 content to a 16:9 screen. (Although, you really need to do that at least 50% of the time on a PDP or CRT Projection to prevent burn-in.) The only thing that people want now is the flash factor of flat panel displays, they really don’t care about HD broadcasts.

  20. phrygian says:

    The reason I haven’t bought an HDTV yet is because none of them (the more reasonably priced ones that I looked at) came with an HD tuner. When I asked the clerks about it, I was told I didn’t need one because my cable box, Tivo, or satellite dish would have it covered for me. I, however, don’t need/want anything other than basic broadcast TV. I was told they couldn’t help me. I guess I’ll just keep using my 10-year old non-HDTV until it stops picking up signals.

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    @AlteredBeast: “I would TOTALLY buy an organic HDTV.”

    Best. Comment. EVER! :D

  22. Trai_Dep says:

    Phrygian – the market’s just reached that stage. We got a Bravia 46″, built-in HDTV tuner, and a HDTV antenna (they have one built-in but reception’s better w/ powered external one).

    Calibrated it using those Dolby self-diagnostics (off of the Finding Nemo DVD). Happy as clams.*

    You can have great HD viewing, DIY, w/o being suckered into shelling out $100/mo to the cable mafia.

    * can’t receive ABC HDTV, and some PBS HDTV on rainy days, for some odd reason. But besides that, happy.

  23. healthdog says:

    Poor dumb sheep. I will keep my regular TV until it burns out, or until HD is truly plug-n-play, thank you very much.

  24. yalej says:


    A probably superior calibration DVD is the Avia home theater essentials. You can buy it on Amazon. It has both audio and video calibration patterns. If you have an HDTV, and you haven’t calibrated it, you’re really missing out on picture quality. Default settings are almost always completely wrong.

    For HT cables: monoprice.com, hands down the best and cheapest place to buy this stuff.

  25. Techguy1138 says:


    What you are suggesting isn’t a good idea for HD content.

    The DVD calibation tools are for SD signals. I’ve yet to see a BluRay calibration disc. I think that there is one for HD-DVD.

    SD content and HD content use different color calibration targets.

    SD uses the old NTSC 601 standard while HD uses the REC 709 standard. You will really need a proper HD disk to calibrate a system for HD.

  26. Celeste says:

    Eh, people buy electronics without having any understanding of their features/capabilities all the time. This is the same thing with cel phones, computers, cameras, etc. There are some people who will shell out the big bucks for features they either don’t know about or need, and there are others who will do their research and make an informed decision.

    Me, I’m very happy with my HD broadcasts. I wouldn’t go back to watching a football game in standard def for anything – you could never see exactly what was going on.

  27. adamondi says:

    @pfblueprint: Watching HD programming and not knowing it (or realizing the difference between that and standard definition programming) is tantamount to having an orgasm and not knowing it or not realizing that it is different than being kicked in the shin.

    If someone is so oblivious to what is going on that he or she cannot tell the difference, or doesn’t care, then I do not feel sorry that he or she was bilked out of thousands of dollars by the trolls at Best Buy.

  28. AnnC says:

    You don’t need a special antenna for hdtv; any old antenna will do. Of course some antennas are better than others. Most digital broadcasts are UHF and are particularly sensitive to multipath problems (i.e., ghost images) so get a good directional UHF antenna.

    Also, check out http://www.antennaweb.org for the list of digital broadcasts in your area.

  29. Terminixsux says:

    Wow! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. However, For anyone who has watched a sporting event in HD, I would hope the difference is obvious. Also, there are some very basic differences between 720p, 720i, 1080p and 1080i.

    The 720 or 1080 is the number of lines of vertical display resolution, while the p or i describe the manner in which the screen is refreshed, progressive or interlaced. There is a difference, and it is evident to anyone who cares to take the time to compare.

  30. mad_oak says:

    I love it! People are stupid.

  31. jitrobug says:

    what about all of us that record tons of hd content on our comcast dvrs even though we have tvs that we bought used for $150 10 years ago?

    I think I help keep the tubes running properly by using up some of the bits that would end up leaking all over if I didn’t.

    plus it looks better.

  32. poornotignorant says:

    I seem to remember that congress has determined that all our TVs will be obsolete in two years. Does anyone know what that is about? Did it have something to do with HD? I don’t know if I can afford to scrap the TV I bought in 2004. Would it pick up anything?

  33. mathew says:

    My organic HDTV has electrolytes!

    I have an HDTV, but I don’t have HD satellite, ’cause I’m not prepared to pay $10 extra for 1 channel I want when I’m already paying for dozens of sports and news channels I literally never watch.

    I have a wire loop antenna that picks up PBS HDTV, though. Well, it also picks up CBS/NBC/ABC, but I don’t watch anything on those channels. And FOX’s digital signal generally isn’t HD. In fact, it usually looks worse than the analog one.

  34. Artki says:

    Exactly. I tried a special HD antenna when my HDTV was installed. The old outdoor antenna (over 10 years old) worked much better so I returned the “special” antenna. And YES, I do know the diff between regular and HDTV.

  35. sashazur says:

    Hmm… I knew all about needing to get HD programming to see anything “HD” on my new HDTV – but when I plugged my new HDTV into my plain old basic cable (no cable box), and set it to auto-scan, it found all the HD channels, and that was that. So I guess this would have worked even for someone clueless – if they had enough of a clue to do the auto-setup scan thing anyway.

    (By the way, I think a lot of people are being intentionally misled by the cable companies and consumer electronics stores – which are telling them that that have to PAY MORE to get HDTV programming. But you don’t. You can get HDTV over the air with an antenna, and at least on Comcast, even basic analog cable delivers your local HD channels).

  36. r3m0t says:

    sashazur: how is your Comcast box connected to the HDTV?

    @adamondi: Not everybody has perfect vision. Not everybody sits close enough to their screen to see HDTV. That doesn’t mean they can or should be “bilked by the trolls at Blu Ray”.

  37. IdontKNOW says:

    I’ll wait till every single channel is high definition. Also, my brother has an HDTV with the time warner cable box and well because of the size of the t.v. when you watch the so called HD channels it comes out as a little square. That’s pretty sad. And no I am not referring to picture in picture. The channel comes out letter boxed except it is all around the image.