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Most homes have high-definition TVs, but few are watching HD programming

November 9, 2010 |  8:19 pm

Us-hdtv-by-ethnicity

High-definition televisions are in about 56% of U.S. homes, making HD TV one of the most quickly adopted consumer technologies of the last 20 years, according to a data from research firm Nielsen Co.

But more than 80% of the programming being watched on HD sets is delivered in standard definition,  Nielsen said.

Only 13% of cable TV viewing and 19% of traditional "broadcast" viewing on is in "true HD," which requires not only an HD TV but an HD tuner (most new models have HD tuners built into the set) and programming delivered from an HD channel, Nielsen said.

"Despite how many homes have HD TVs now, not every TV in the house is HD and not every channel is HD," said Gary Holmes, a Nielsen spokesman. "Sometimes people don’t really know the difference between an HD channel or an SD channel and they tune in to a standard-definition channel not knowing they they're missing out on HD. Simply having an HD TV doesn't mean everything you watch on it is in high definition."

According to Nielsen, 44% of homes either don't have an HD TV or lack HD service from cable or satellite TV providers.

The rate of adoption of HD TVs into the home also varies according to race and ethnicity, Nielsen said. On the high-end of adoption, about two-thirds of Asian American households have HD TVs, compared with about half of African American homes.

Nielsen  compiled the data on HD TV penetration and HD viewing while measuring recent TV ratings from a pool of 20,000 households in the U.S., Holmes said.

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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Chart: High-definition TV penetration by race and ethnicity in U.S. households. Credit: Nielsen Co.

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