High Def TV Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Figure 1 - Mind Control – Tellywood is losing control of the way people get their entertainment and if program schedules don’t work then they’ll move over to the growing number of Web 2.0 outlets. It’s entertainment when you want, where you want. Source – NYTimes

“I want the entire history of this device, from birth to abortion on my desk in 2 hours. I want the name of the tech who made it. I want to know who authorized its use, who checked it out from inventory.”– Admiral Shaffer (Dan Butler) – Enemy of the State (1998)

According to the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association), it took 20 years for color TV sets to be in use in more than 50% of the U.S. homes.

But now that the world has gone digital it is time for homeowners everywhere to cast off the archaic analog (NTSC) TV sets and move up to crisp, beautiful digital (ATSC) sets.

On Feb 18, 2009 folks in the U.S. will be there. Or else…

There are a lot of fantastic reasons for going HighDef:

- gives the government(s) more bandwidth to sell

- gives PC/CE/broadcast manufacturers more opportunities to sell more stuff to all of us

- TV shows will be better …. Yeah right!

The industries have been moving slowly in the digital direction for more than 10 years.

Acronym groups around the globe have been establishing standards for every aspect of your entertainment.

Old patent holders worked diligently to keep their technology in play. Newbies busted their humps to cut our losses and start with a fresh slate.

If you don’t like the options follow Fiedler’s advice…“Well, maybe you should design a better one.”

It’s really too late people are already enjoying digital connectivity to the home and are making the transition.

Figure 2 - Broadband Sources – Households with broadband connectivity are familiar with the transition from analog to digital television. Many already have their HDTV sets. Sometimes two or three sets. Source -- CTAM

Videophiles were the first to get their flat screens. According to the Diffusion Group many are already on their second/third set.

If you believe the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Americans are already well on their way to a digital entertainment world with more than 50% of the households owning a DTV set.

But most research is less optimistic about the penetration.

Figure 3 - Sales Numbers – In the world of product market/sales projections, the first liar doesn’t stand a chance. U.S. households with HDTV sets range from 50+% to 30% depending upon the research report. The only thing they all agree on is that analog sets will go black next February. Source -- Forrester

Big Sales Opportunities

Regardless of who you believe, there will still be a lot of big screens sold:

- 102.5M LCD TVs will be sold this year

- 105M satellite, cable, IPTV subscribers WW

- 13.7% of Americans have HDTV

- 144B DTVs will sell by 2011

- 75% of HDTVs sold in 2011 will be LCDs

- 85% of HDTV owners are happy with the picture

- China exported 39.5M TVs in 2007 with 38.3M sold domestically

- Flat panel TV sales exceeded $100B in ‘07

The set is part of the equation and for most households the important one.

According to CTAM (Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing):

- 99% of U.S. homes have at least one TV set

- 47% have three or more

- 23% own HD sets, 22% of these have two or more HDTV sets

- HDTV is strongest among broadband (37%) and digital cable (35%) households

People bought the HDTV sets primarily for picture quality. Sixty percent of the people buying a new set in the next six months planned on buying an HDTV set.

Figure 4 - Picture Perfect – While the digital television conversion may encourage many homeowners to upgrade to newer, better flat screens; many believe it was the at home entertainment value of DVD movies that convinced people there was more they could enjoy from movies. Demand will continue to be “brisk.” Source – CTAM

At the January CES we saw the set we wanted. Just couldn’t quite figure out where in the hell we would put it.

Big Impact – While the big money is made with modest sized LCD/plasma HDTV sets, that didn’t stop Panasonic from unveiling the industry’s largest screen at CES. The 150-in plasma screen dominated the stage at their event this spring.

Of course the fact that we don’t watch that much television never entered our mind.

Then after a lot of online research our wife showed us we would have to rearrange the family room to get the maximum entertainment value.

Figure 5 - Optimum Viewer Satisfaction – While most store sales folks show you the biggest, baddest flat screen available. They won’t bother telling you (or don’t have a clue themselves) that you should buy your set for your viewing habits. A little online research can make a whole lot of difference…in quality and price.

Boy buying a TV set is no longer a simple matter!

Viewing Guidelines

Our wife – the web crawler – found tons of information:

- http://www.pcube.com/dtv.html -- Report of the SMPTE Task Force on Digital Image Architecture

- http://www.pcube.com/pdf/Report%20of%20the%20SMPTE%20TFDIA.html#3.2 – Properties of Human Visual Perception

- http://www.pcube.com/pdf/Report%20of%20the%20SMPTE%20TFDIA.html#5.0 – section 5

- http://www.tid.es/documentos/boletin/numero6_4.pdf -- Influence of Display Size and Picture Brightness on the Preferred Viewing Distance for HDTV Programs

- http://www.ibc-show.com/IBC2007/Candice/IBC2007/PAPERS/1047%20Hoffmann/1047%20Hoffmann2.pdf

- Screen size, resolution, viewing distance variables http://s3.carltonbale.com/resolution_chart.html http://www.carltonbale.com/2006/11/1080p-does-matter/

Then we had to consider the pros/cons of plasma vs LCD and 480i/p, 720i/p, 1080i/p, 1440i/p.

Wonder why you can’t get a straight answer when you go to the store?

Next 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 ITV Plus route

The cable and satellite folks (and a lot of the clerks) want you to believe that to go

HighDef you’re going to have to go with cable or satellite.

Wrong !!

Free, Discounted

In fact the CEA/NAB provide some great information to help people choose the free

OTA solution at http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx. Their AntennaWeb Mapping Program covers more than 200 markets in the U.S. Maps are broken into different color zones that represent where different types of antennas will work most effectively.

Now that you’ve picked your set and TV content source don’t forget you need the converter box (unless your cable/satellite company is generous and “gives” you one).

Can’t find your $40 coupon?

Go to www.dtv2009.gov/VendorSearch.aspx. That will show you where to find a store in your area that offers the coupons and the converter boxes.

We found one store in our area and we live in a fairly large metropolitan area so…your experience may vary.

In our household we have a splinter group.

Our kids don’t believe TV is a government conspiracy…just close.

They have their notebook computers, fantastic 24-inch LCD monitors and Internet connectivity.

They never knew life without the Internet.

Their generation doesn’t worry much about privacy because …it’s all out there.

They just look at you and say…”Yeah…so?”

Globally notebooks are increasingly being used for everything -- work/communications/entertainment.

Figure 6 - Everything Machines – Desktop and notebook computers already have HDTV quality monitors. For kids who have grown up without knowing a world pre-Internet, notebooks have become their staple form of work/entertainment. They can be used for both online and OTA mind-numbing enjoyment. Source -- IDC

The systems are video ready…game ready…music ready…photo ready…

Content on the Web is available from everyone!

In fact there’s more TV stuff online than OTA!

Just the other night we visited him in his room (you do that with kids…visit them).

Watched a Larry, Curly & Moe classic on his system “Slowly I turned…”

Try finding that on one of your gazillion cable channels.

We even do stuff folks would never do with their TV…we watched a bunch of really cool commercials.

That stuff is addictive !

Closet TVers

Now our kids also cheat – just a little. They have Pinnacle PCTV HD sticks to watch “educational” shows between classes.

TV On The Go – Because computer monitors are already HDTV quality screens; teens, tweens and others who grew up knowing nothing but the Internet have increasingly turned to the Web for online and OTA entertainment.

They don’t use them a lot because of all of his other online choices.

But thank gawd they’re not totally anti-TV…just closet TVers.

They just refused to buy into standard TV logic…you will watch their stuff, on their cable, at their times.

The dynamic relationship between broadband access, broadband content and broadband consumption has changed the entertainment landscape.

Figure 7 - Personalized Entertainment – Increasingly people are finding and wanting their entertainment content when they want it rather than on some pre-determined TV schedule. Increasingly Tellywood will have to figure out a new way of charging consumers for content and advertisers for reaching the consumer. Tough Challenge. Source -- iSuppli

Makes it tough for networks, stations and content owners to charge for eyeballs like the good old days!

According to a recent ComScore report the landscape is changing:

- 69% of Americans find PCs more entertaining than TVs

- 47% engage more with TV ads online

- Americans are choosing smaller, not larger TV sets

- 50% of US households have digital TV

- 38% of US consumers watch TV shows online

- 30% of cable subscribers would drop cable if shows were available online

Cable & satellite service providers are doing everything they can think of to remain relevant as your entertainment source. They know that once people break the TV habit they could be just like Larry King and say…“You've got no right to come into my home.”

TV On The Go – Because computer monitors are already HDTV quality screens; teens, tweens and others who grew up knowing nothing but the Internet have increasingly turned to the Web for online and OTA entertainment.

Larry may be right. Just don’t forget to go get your coupon for your box or make other arrangements…time’s running out!

Graphics, Illustrations availble by contacting andy@markencom.com


G. A. "Andy" Marken President Marken Communications, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. He has been a marketing an...

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