High-definition hyped, but many consumers remain wary

While 90% of all Americans have heard of high-definition television, only 47% say they know anything substantial about it, and just 15% say they are somewhat or very likely to get HDTV—all reflecting basically unchanged levels over the past year, according to new research from Ipsos Insight, a New York-basec global market research firm.

“Advertisers and marketers clearly have to take the initiative to expand the base of consumers who understand HDTV’s features and benefits, in order to convert them into buyers,” said Todd Board, leader of Ipsos Insight’s Technology & Communications practice. “Especially when you consider that the number of people who are substantially aware of HDTV hasn’t changed since 2004.”

“Awareness levels have topped out as the range of HDTV-related technology products and services are promoted by manufacturers, networks, and cable and satellite service providers,” Board said.

“Among the fairly static group of U.S. consumers that report familiarity with HDTV in the past year, the perceived benefits have remained quite high,” added Board. “The critical issue today is that many consumers know HDTV exists, but haven’t been convinced that it offers enough benefit to justify replacing their current TVs. Some of the reluctance to become more familiar with HDTV may have to do with this ‘worth it’ hurdle.”

Board explains the ‘worth it’ hurdle as the incremental benefit to the consumer, balanced against the cost and hassle of experiencing that benefit, including evaluating alternatives, learning how to use the new technology, and any ‘hidden’ costs like upgraded receiver boxes.

“The ‘worth it’ hurdle impacts all new technologies, whether they’re gimmicky or offer clearer benefits to the consumer,” said Board. “The lack of growth in consumers’ HDTV purchase intentions in the past three years suggests that the value proposition hasn’t been made compelling enough to enough consumers yet. Marketers and advertisers who can get consumers over the ‘worth-it’ hurdle will reap the benefits of this exciting new technology.”


Most survey respondents familiar with HDTV recall having seen an ad for HDTV in the past month (84%), and three-quarters (74%) have looked into the capability in store. An encouraging finding was that the proportion of consumers familiar with HDTV who perceive it as “too expensive” declined from 72% in 2004 to 66% in 2005, reflecting real price reductions.

Concluded Board, “At some point, the firms who have invested in this technology have to amortize that investment, and sooner or later that has to entail further reductions in price points that turn ‘theoretical’ margin into actual margin.”

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