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How dumb are HDTV Customers?

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So, how dumb is the typical would-be HDTV customer? According to a recent Best Buy survey, the answer is somewhere between Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

To be exact, in Best Buy‘s telephone survey of 1,012 customers, the company found 89% of those surveyed felt that they don’t completely understand HDTV (high-definition television) technology. That self-estimate may have been on the high-side.

You see, nearly four in ten consumers–39%–didn’t even know that you needed an HDTV to watch HDTV. In my head I now have this image of someone who paid over a grand for one of the first generation HD-DVD players watching The Bourne Identity on a 19″ SDTV (standard-definition television) and telling themselves how great it looks. The true horror is that I am absolutely sure that there are people doing that

After all, of those who did own HDTVs, 41% admitted that they understand little to nothing at all about HDTV. Think about that for a moment. Four out of ten people who had probably already laid out at least a grand for an HDTV admit that they don’t know what’s now sitting in their living room or home theater.

It gets worse. 52% of respondents don’t realize you need a special HD compatible cable to experience HD programming. HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)? DVI (Digital Video Interface)? Let’s get real. I’m willing to bet that most HDTV users couldn’t tell a coaxial cable from S-Video.

I mean, half of the HDTV owners either aren’t watching HDTV, or, brace yourself, they aren’t even sure they’re watching HD programming, Since 35% didn’t realize they needed to subscribe to HD programming to watch HDTV, my guess is that most, perhaps as many as 80% of HDTV owners, have never actually seen HDTV on their home systems. They just think: big TV, big picture, cool!

I believe Best Buy’s numbers because I’ve been in a lot of homes with proud owners who wanted to show me their new HDTV rigs. Four out of the five, at least, showed me normal TV and clearly thought they were showing me HDTV.

Mind you, I’m not talking about showing me well-tuned HDTV, getting HDTV just right is a tale for another day; I’m talking about seeing anything other than stretched out 480i.

Now that DirecTV has finally opened the floodgates to its new HDTV channels, I know we’re going to see even more of people buying HDTVs… and not having a clue about how to actually get HDTV broadcasts to watch.

I’ll be trying to my part to educate people here on Practical Technology, but really, it’s time for everyone who has a clue as to how HDTV really works to start getting the word out. I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s just something incredibly annoying about the idea of people wasting thousands of dollars.

After all, it’s really not that people are dumb. They’re not. It’s that there’s simply not enough basic information out there on what HDTV really is and how to take advantage of it.

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