Sunday, February 04, 2007

Digital Syllogism

Now that it's over, I wonder how many people who purchased a flat-panel display to watch the Super Bowl in high-definition actually did so -- and how many thought they did so. A Forrester Research study done last year that's just now creeping into the media's awareness suggests those aren't small numbers. The USA Today article about consumer confusion -- published just a few days ago -- shows that the general public still has only a vague idea about what HDTV is and how to get it.

Primarily because of a lack of information, many are making the following deduction:

Major premise: All HDTV signals are digital
Minor premise: My new TV can receive digital signals
Conclusion: All digital signals my TV receives are HDTV

The problem is that HDTV is a subset of the digital transmissions broadcasters are moving over to. There's Standard Definition (SDTV) which is most basic form of digital transmission -- locally produced programs mostly use this. Then there's Enhanced Definition (EDTV), which has a higher resolution image (480p) -- this is the standard for most nationally distributed TV fare. High Definition (HDTV) delivers the best picture (1080i or 720p), and because it's less forgiving of flaws, is the most expensive to produce programs in. That's why broadcasters will tell you when something's in HDTV. Right now, it's still a big deal.

Because HDTV is the non plus ultra of the digital formats, its been used interchangeably with the term "digital TV." Marketing campaigns only talk about HDTV, and a majority of the sales associates at the box retailers use (and think of) the terms interchangeably.

Lots folks who purchased flat-panel sets in January didn't know what 1080i (HDTV) was, but they totally wanted it. Perhaps Jessica Simpson speaks for us after all.

- Ralph

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