Blame the Super Bowl

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The chief suspect in the case of the disappearing HD set-tops? Super Bowl XLII.

Both Verizon and Cox are telling some customers they’ll have to wait at least a week or two — perhaps even more than a month — before they can get HD DVRs or set-tops. Other providers are no doubt seeing similar shortages.

Inevitably, the trail leads back to the Super Bowl, which this year was the Biggest Big Game to date, with early estimates of 97.5 million U.S. viewers

Consider: The Consumer Electronics Association estimated this year’s Giants-Pats matchup alone would drive sales of 2.4 million HDTVs, based on a survey of 2,278 U.S. adults it conducted last month with the Sports Video Group.

That comes on the heels of a brisk holiday season of HDTV sales, and by consequence strong demand for HD service. Time Warner Cable, for one, said yesterday that its Q4 2007 was its busiest quarter ever for high-definition, installing 358,000 HD boxes.

It adds up to a perfect storm for HDTV demand. One Cox sales agent, when I asked whether any HD set-tops were available, told me without prompting that Super Sunday had cleaned out the high-def inventory.

As customer-service problems go, it’s not the worst one to have. But one hopes it’s resolved soon: Nobody wants this to linger long enough to make March Madness fans mad.