When it comes to advanced digital features, HDTV is the platform that operators believe not only will drive and retain digital-cable offerings, but will be the most effective tool in fending off the incursion from satellite providers.
Those were among the key findings of the second half of the annual "State of Cable & Broadband" study from Horowitz Associates Inc., which was released to clients last week.
Of the 162 cable operator respondents -- a base that included a number of general managers, as well as marketing and programming managers at the system level -- 68% cited HDTV service built into digital boxes as the key driver when read a list of services and technologies that would lead to the acquisition and retention of customers.
That compared with 58% listing an interactive programming guide, 55% mentioning video-on-demand and 54% noting digital-video recorders.
Relative to competition with direct-broadcast satellite, 23% of the cable-operator respondents interviewed said HDTV is the most important service to compete with DBS providers, while 20% cited VOD and 17% pointed to high-speed Internet access.
On the consumer side, 95% of the more than 1,650 people surveyed indicated awareness of DVRs and HDTV.
But the study revealed that among cable subscribers, only 38% were aware that they can get DVR service from their operator, versus 78% of satellite subscribers who knew they can receive it from their providers.
Only 5% of all consumers surveyed, though, were aware that they can get HDTV service from a cable or satellite provider.
"There is no question that consumers are on the bandwagon when it comes to HDTV, DVR, [high-speed Internet] and other broadband services," said Howard Horowitz, president of the Larchmont, N.Y.-based research firm, in a prepared statement.
"It is now up to the providers to educate consumers about their choices and options and to position their company as the best alternative among the options available," he added.
The company conducted the research in November and December.