One in five Americans can’t tell the difference between high definition and standard definition TV according to a recent piece of research.
In fact, that’s probably a little misleading. More people probably would be able to tell the difference if they were shown a standard definition broadcast and a high definition broadcast (or, better yet, a Blu-ray film) side-by-side. What’s actually happening is that viewers aren’t sure when they’re watching normal TV and when they’re viewing higher resolution TV.
There are likely many reasons for this problem.
- General consumers don’t really care about all the numbers and technical jargon – they just see a big TV set that says “high definition” on it and think “Great! I’ll take it.”
- Some consumers presume that the broadcasters are already sending out HD signals and the TV is simply the missing part of the jigsaw, like black-and-white versus colour.
- Modern TVs have the ability to make standard definition broadcasts look pretty good (of course, they can also make them look awful). Nowhere near the quality of HD, but better than the old TV set the viewer just got rid of.
- Salespeople in general stores are often poorly trained and don’t have the specialist knowledge to advise on what high definition content will be available once the TV has been purchased.
- Certainly in the UK, there’s not yet a huge range of high definition content being broadcast, and nothing terrestrially.
- Messages about digital switchover tend not to cover the difference between standard definition and high definition, and some people may assume that the two are synonymous, which they’re not.
- Viewers may be watching poorly encoded HD broadcasts which don’t look much better than regular broadcasts and may even look worse than good quality DVDs.
It all comes down to plain English education from TV and set-top box manufacturers, retailers and broadcasters. Consumers need to be made aware that there’s a lot more to watching high definition than just buying a sparkly new flat-panel TV. Until that happens, confusion and disappointment will continue.