HDTV Viewing Lags Ownership

November 8, 2010

Although 56% of US households now have at least one HDTV, only 13% of total day viewing on cable and 19% of viewing on broadcast television is “true HD” viewing, according to data from The Nielsen Company.

More than 80% of TV Viewing is Standard Definition

Despite relatively high levels of consumer HDTV adoption, less than 20% of total US TV viewing consists of HD content. Nielsen analysis indicates reasons for this disconnect include the fact that more than four in 10 US households still do not own an HDTV and/or lack HDTV service, even most HDTV homes have at least one standard set, and about 20% of viewing on HD sets is via non-HD feeds.


Sports Networks Most Watched in HD

Consumption of HD television varies by genre and age. More people watch cable sports networks in high definition than watch any type of network, while children’s programming is least likely to be watched in HD. Yet among age groups, young adults 18-34 are the most likely to seek out HD programming on all types of researched networks except news.

Asians Most Likely to Own HDTVs

The rate of adoption of high definition television also varies according to race and ethnicity. About two-thirds of Asian households are set up to watch HD TV, compared to about half of African American homes.


Meanwhile, whites and Hispanics are virtually tied with an HDTV ownership rate slightly higher than the 56% overall average.

Several Factors will Increase HDTV Viewing

Looking ahead, programmers and marketers can expect HD viewing to increase as HD penetration continues to expand. A number of additional factors should drive growth in true HD viewing:

  • A kids and teens get HD sets in their rooms, their overall HD viewing will increase.
  • As cable and satellite providers substitute HD channels for SD where available, the percent of “true HD” viewing will grow.
  • As cable providers require set-top boxes for all sets, HD viewing for cable will expand.

North America Leads HDTV Penetration

North America has the highest penetration of HDTVs of any major global region, according to other recent Nielsen data. Globally, 30% of respondents own an HDTV set. Residents of North America are 60% more likely than the global average to own an HDTV set.


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