DTV’s image blurs in viewers’ minds

Jul 30, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The promise of prettier pictures may no longer be enough to sell digital television to consumers.
According to the surprise findings of a study released by the Consumer Electronics Association last week, only 45 percent of consumers now say they find the concept of getting a better picture appealing-down from 50 percent last year.
At the same time, the study, Consumer Perspectives of Digital TV II, found that 33 percent of consumers found the concept of better pictures unappealing, up from 23 percent the previous year, a finding the study characterized as “alarming.”
David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, said, “The true question is whether they’re talking about people who have seen true HDTV, because seeing it is believing it.”
On another front, the study found that interactive TV, another traditional sales point for DTV, may be losing its punch. This year, the study found that only 30 percent of respondents thought interactivity added greatly or at least somewhat to DTV’s appeal, down from 48 percent last year.
Nonetheless, 62 percent of the respondents felt that surround sound added at least somewhat to DTV’s appeal, up a point from the previous year, while 61 percent said the same thing about being able to watch wide-screen movies without black borders.
The cost of the transition also appears to be of growing significance to consumers, according to the study, with 37 percent citing that as their greatest concern this year, up from 26 percent last year.
In addition, the number of consumers who say their next TV set will be a DTV model has dropped to 39 percent, down from 50 percent in July 1998 and 62 percent in January 1999.
Still, the study said the perception of consumers about the arrival of DTV is largely positive overall, with 61 percent of respondents having at least mostly positive thoughts on the concept-and that’s up from 46 percent in 1998, the study said.
The study speculated that at least part of the reason the appeal of DTV could be moderating is that viewers are becoming aware of the costs of replacing sets.
“This trend should reverse itself as awareness peaks and digital TVs come down in price,” the study said. “However, another angle to consider is that as prices for digital TVs fall, some people may be holding back on their purchase in hopes that prices will fall even further.
“Although consumers are not aware of all the industry bickering about various digital TV issues, the message from the survey is clear: `Stop the finger-pointing and give me my DTV,”’ the study continued.
“If all the players do not come together soon, consumer fatigue on this issue could pose a significant problem, resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue.”
Mark Hyman, vice president, corporate relations, Sinclair Broadcast Group, said, “Kudos to CEA for admitting that it is not all about home theater-size HDTV displays. We need more, not fewer, incentives for the American public to invest in DTV products.”