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Exploring the Depths of Format War Ignorance

by September 28, 2007
HD Format War Ignorance

HD Format War Ignorance

Number of people who don’t know they need an HDTV to view HD content? Survey says… 40.

That would be the number of people out of every 100 that have no idea that an HDTV is even required to view HD content.

This is according to results of a Best Buy phone survey of 1012 adults in the continental US, as reported by High Def Digest and Home Media Magazine:

Best Buy’s findings indicate only 11% of consumers indicated that they feel comfortable with their knowledge of HD:

  • Four in 10 people did not identify an HDTV as necessary to enjoy high-def content.

  • 44% of respondents did not know they needed HD programming or an HD antenna, while 52% did not know they needed HD cables and 62% did not know they needed a full audio set-up.

  • More than half of respondents said they had only budgeted for an HDTV, thinking that would be enough to be high-def.

  • 52% of respondents who already own an HDTV said they would be unwilling to admit their HD set-up was wrong after showing the system to friends.

  • Only 11% of all consumers said they feel they completely understand high-def, compared to only 19% of HDTV owners.

Best Buy Survey, Home Media Magazine

If 40% of the people don’t know they even need an HDTV and over 50% think that only the HDTV is required, that leaves less than 10% who might understand that they have to get at least HD television programming or an HD disc player. On top of this, the format war leaves most of that less than 10% out of the game until the smoke clears and the remaining fraction split.

Even HDTV owners are disinterested in true HD optical disc content. An NPD Group poll report of current HDTV owners should also be sobering to the players in the format war.

According to the NPD report on HD disc adoption, only 52% of HDTV owners are aware that HD optical disc formats exist, only 11% planned on buying a player within the next six months, and 73% of HDTV owners say they are happy with up converted SD DVD. Even the competitors in the format war have little name recognition: only 29% of the survey respondents knew of HD-DVD by name and 20% knew of Blu-ray by name.

Worldwide HDTV market penetration is only expected to be around 50 million units by 2008, according to Global Industry Analysts, with the US accounting for about one half.

So what does this mean to the HD optical disc format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD?

It’s an awfully little patch of dirt they are fighting over.

That would be the number of consumers who have any understanding of what HD actually entails and are actually willing to buy in.

Average consumers have no idea what HD is, much less what benefit it may or may not be to them, personally.

I will present a case in point about the true depths of consumer confusion about high def from my personal experience.

As I was standing in the returns line at the local Wal-Mart, I got to witness a defective product return for a $100(ish) up scaling DVD recorder. The reason the customer thought the unit was defective: it would not play the ‘Blu-ray DVD’ that they had rented from Block Buster the night before. Seems the box said something about it being a ‘high def’ player so it must be broken if it can not play a ‘high def’ DVD. Even the marketing crap on regular, up scaling DVD players, with on box statements about (near) high def resolutions, confuses people.

The Wal-Mart clerk attending them also did not know what player was supposed to play these ‘Blu-ray DVD’s’ when asked. So they got their money back and decided to go to Best Buy, where they will get an unpleasant surprise when they find that it’s going to take a $500 player, not a $100 unit, to play that rental disc.

Many in the industry are now saying that the war is between SD and HD, that the war is a stalemate, and it had better end before the downloading begins or both sides will lose.

The opponents in this war have put the cart before the horse.

About the author:

Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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Recent Forum Posts:

alexsound posts on December 07, 2007 14:36
admin, post: 314214
Number of people who don’t know they need an HDTV to view HD content? Survey says… 40. That would be the number of people out of every 100 that have no idea that an HDTV is even required to view HD content. This is according to results of a Best Buy phone survey of 1012 adults in the continental US, as reported by High Def Digest and Home Media Magazine.


Discuss “Exploring the Depths of Format War Ignorance” here. Read the article.

Number of people I know who bought the Toshiba A2 from Walmart? THREE.

Of those 3, how many own an HDTV? 2

Of the 2 that has an HDTV, how is it hooked up ?
One of them is through the composite input on the TV. It's my Uncle. I tried to explain to him he needed to hook the unit up through the component jacks (he has an older 4x3 aspect reatio Mits HD CRT RPTV) but he said I didn't know what I was talking about, yada yada yada. I let it go.

Same thing with the other guy who actually has widescreen HDTV. He has a
standard cable box, going to the TV via the S-vhs hookup, and he hooked up his player via the “yellow” (composite)video connector. That's what he said. He's a co-worker of mine. I didn't even bother explaining anything to him. I knew he wouldn't listen anyways. He thinks his TV looks AWESOME. He has it set to the ZOOM mode on the TV to get rid of the side bars.

I won't even go into #3, other than he has a 60“ OLD Mitsubishi NON HD crt rptv. Probably using the ”yellow" connector too.
kleinwl posts on December 07, 2007 14:10
Exit, post: 316108
I also think there are a lot of people with standard TVs up to 20 years old and the last time they bought a 32” TV they probably spent $600. Now the price of an HDTV in a bigger size may be several thousand dollars plus additional money for high definition satellite and/or high definition DVD plus expensive cables. This may look pretty expensive. That’s without considering an audio system to go with it. I think this could be a lot of the general public and they might hold onto their old standard TVs as long as possible – even to the point of buying converter boxes after the change to digital TV transmission.

This is definitely me and many people I know. While I have Directv, I'm not going to replace my 5 year old SD CRT (27") any time soon. When you calculate the cost of a decent HDTV ($1500), an upgrade to HD Directv ($200 HR20 + $15 more/month), Amp/speakers ($1000), it's a heck of a whole lot more than the $300 the old TV cost me in the first place.

In fact, I've gotten more pleasure out of my DVR (SD) than most of the people I see with HDTVs (even HD programing). Many of them come over and go wow… you can watch your favorite shows whenever you like?

I'm big into audio and I love to watch movies… but I don't want to have to get a second job just to support it.
Exit posts on October 03, 2007 17:28
It is interesting to see what everyone has had to say on the topic of average consumers getting into HDTV and high definition sources. Best Buy is already trying to beat into everyone’s head that you need a high definition source to see HDTV. It will be interesting if they and the other retailers are able to sell high definition DVD to the general public in a big way.

I think it all depends on selling big screen HDTVs first. Standard TVs (up to 36”) look ok with standard definition sources. The exception is large screen standard definition projection TVs which look pretty bad and are still found in some homes and bars. I think it is when you get over 36” TV sizes that you get the desire for a better HDTV picture. The bigger the screen, the worse standard definition looks, and the more you appreciate high definition. The exact size screen where this realization occurs probably varies from person to person.

I also think a lot of people are buying flat screens to replace standard TVs because they are the latest thing and HDTV may come as a byproduct to them. Also, just because average people are buying flat screens, does not mean they are buying large screens (over 42”) and thus they may not see the need for high definition sources as I mentioned above.

I also think there are a lot of people with standard TVs up to 20 years old and the last time they bought a 32” TV they probably spent $600. Now the price of an HDTV in a bigger size may be several thousand dollars plus additional money for high definition satellite and/or high definition DVD plus expensive cables. This may look pretty expensive. That’s without considering an audio system to go with it. I think this could be a lot of the general public and they might hold onto their old standard TVs as long as possible – even to the point of buying converter boxes after the change to digital TV transmission.
jwkessler posts on October 03, 2007 12:08
gmichael, post: 314275
I'm not surprised at all. I'd like to also know:

1) The % of people who think that buying an HDTV automatically gets them HD, even though they don't have HD cable or sat.
2) The % of people with HDTV's and HD cable who still don't know that they need to switch from channel 2 to 252 to get the HD picture.
3) The % of people who get all of the above right, but still listen to the speakers in their TV's.

You forgot one…

4) The % of people who have the HDTV and the HD cable service, but who connect the cable box to the TV with a composite video cable - or through the modulator.

I personally know 6 people with HD systems at home (this number includes me) and three of them told me they saw no difference watching HD. It turned out they were unaware that you need a component or HDMI cable. I sure hope this isn't indicative of the population as a whole - but I fear it is.
ZoFo posts on October 02, 2007 19:13
Lot's of us have gone over the deep end!

Although I always had an interest in “Stereos” which back then was all 2-channel, when I first visited this site 3 years ago I was looking for some better speakers for my new Sony RPTV that I had just bought, needed something better than the Bose setup I had. I had no idea I was an “Audioholic” but 3 years, two HT's & numerous upgrades and $18,000 later I would say I now qualify. Once I heard and saw what could be acomplished with todays electronics there was no stoping me, and I feel there are many out there ready for the HD Wakeup Call once they see what can be acomplished with a properly setup system.

I am still pissed off that VOOM failed - still have my VOOM Dish & two receivers - man what a service that was for the whole 6 months I got to enjoy it!
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