You Mean That Is Not Actually HD?

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Say you ordered a porterhouse steak but the waiter plunked down a Salisbury steak TV dinner.

Would you notice? Maybe you wouldn’t — if you had no idea what a porterhouse steak was supposed to look or taste like.

There’s something like this happening with HDTVs. In a nutshell: Only 56% of the estimated 39 million U.S. HDTV owners receive HD programming, according to recent research from In-Stat.

That means there are some 17 million American households with high-definition televisions that don’t have an HD set-top box or service.

The question is, Why? Leichtman Research Group has found a sizable number of HDTV owners — about 18% — think they are watching HD programming but are not.

But we would still need an explanation for the remaining one-quarter of the HDTV-owning population, which apparently is aware that they’re not watching Roger Federer’s fuzzy brownot evenbreaking a sweat or Anderson Cooper’s preternaturally twinkling eyes in high-def.

Do those folks just not care enough about HD programming? Then why did they buy the HDTV set? (True, it’s become nearly impossible to buy a new TV that is not HD-capable, but still.) Perhaps they are reticent to fork over the premium many video providers charge for an HD set-top or DVR. Or maybe they’ve just been laid off.

If the problem is perceived value, programmers and their affiliates need to do more work to convince the HD holdouts that there’s a whole lotta sizzle to be had in upgrading to a high-def service. Could MSOs persuade more people to take an HD “staycation” this summer instead of scorching their feet on the beach?