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Going High-Def

In case you harbored any lingering doubts, two new consumer research studies show that HDTV fever is simply sweeping the nation.

In its latest survey, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported that 30 percent of U.S. households now have an HD set, up from no more than 20 percent a year ago. With 16 million high-def sets projected to be sold this year, the trade group predicts that 36 percent of American homes will possess an HDTV by January.

What's more, CEA projects that a total of 52.5 million HD sets will have been sold in the U.S. through the end of this year. It also estimates that nearly a third of existing high-def set owners already have more than one HD set in their home.

Likewise, a new study by Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) found that 29 percent of cable subscribers now own an HDTV set, up from just 15 percent a year earlier. Not surprisingly, digital cable customers are particularly snapping up high-def sets, with 41 percent of those subscribers owning an HDTV, more than double the 19 percent of a year ago.

The CTAM survey also revealed that 13 percent of all U.S. households, including both non-HDTV and HDTV households, plan to buy a high-def set over the next 12 months. And 18 percent of online homes intend to buy one.

These results aren't necessarily great news for cable operators and networks, however. The CEA study found that no more than 44 percent of HDTV set owners actually subscribe to high-def programming packages from their cable or satellite TV providers. Consumers mostly complain either that the programming is too expensive or that they're just not interested in the shows.

In another discouraging finding, CEA discovered that one big reason why consumers are buying HD sets is to improve their movie and gaming experience, not actually watch HDTV. Instead of subscribing to high-def programming packages, many folks are hooking up their HD sets to their DVD players and video game consoles.

So the U.S. may be going high-def. But not everybody is sharing in the bounty so far.

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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