12.6 mln US households to have HDTV by the end of 2004, 45 mln by 2008

According to Screen Digest, there were nearly 9 mln US digital TV (DTV) households in 2003. Screen Digest predicts that this will rise to 48 mln by 2008. Of these, most can be categorised as HD-capable. By the end of 2004, Screen Digest expects 12.6 mln US households with an HD display, rising to 45 mln by 2008. This is equivalent to 94% of all installed DTV displays.

However, of the 12.6 mln HD displays currently installed, only 4.6 mln homes actually receive an HD signal either via a broadcast tuner or pay TV subscription. This means that 63% of HD homes are in all likelihood using their HD displays to resolve content from standard definition DVDs as part of a home cinema system. Although this percentage is likely to shrink into 2008, to around 20%, the number will actually remain static, at around 9 mln. This is likely to be good news for any eventual HD packaged media option launched by the studios.

What may not be such good news is the issue of resolution. Of the 500+ digital TV sets listed by the CEA as being on the market in winter 2004, only two could display the true 1080p HD resolution, retailing at $8,999 and ?20,999 respectively, with another 16 offering virtual 1080p. Therefore, not only are around 10% of US digital TV households not HD-enabled at all, but those sets that are HD capable actually provide a native display resolution fractionally better than required by HDTV broadcasting. Although this would not pose an issue for pay TV operators, broadcasters and the Internet VoD service providers who all operate at 720p, it may prove an issue for HD packaged media if it attempts to differentiate itself from other means of distribution by focusing on the higher quality 1080p standard.

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