Nielsen: HD is the new normal


NielsenTelevision has come a long way since the grainy black and white sets of old. While there have been constant advances—from the introduction of color to the remote control to connected TVs (IPTV)—the advent of High Definition TV (HDTV) could be considered one of the high water marks.

In fact, as HD continues to revolutionize the quality of the TV watching experience, more than three quarters of U.S households have an HDTV set—that’s up 14% from last year, according to a recent study by Nielsen. What’s more is that nearly 40% of those homes have multiple HD sets. The figure is likely to continue to trend upwards as bulky standard definition sets are swapped out for sleeker and more technologically-sophisticated models.

Not all HD is equal, though. In May 2012, 61% of all prime viewing was done on an HD set, but that does not necessarily denote actual HD viewing was happening. “True” HD, using an HD set top box or tuner in a home that receives HD channels and actually tuned to an HD signal, is the only way to experience legitimate HDTV bliss. During that same month, 29% of English-language broadcast prime viewing and 25% of cable prime viewing was “True HD.” The gap between HD potential and true HD viewing leaves a wide berth for consumers to bridge. The study also noted that among cable networks, as expected, sports and entertainment genres are more likely to be viewed in HD as compared to news and kids programming.

Methodology: A study of 17 networks—five English-language broadcast networks and 12 ad-supported cable networks—was conducted during May 2012 and accounted for the share of total tuning watched in True HD vs. all other ways to watch on a TV.

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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.