Americans still spend less than 20 percent of their TV time watching high-definition programs, even with HDTVs in more than half of U.S. homes, according to market researcher Nielsen.
It's unclear to what extent HDTV owners are to blame for slow adoption. Nielsen says that high-definition feeds account for 80 percent of viewing on HDTVs, but the group also notes that 44 percent of homes either don't have an HDTV at all, or lack HD service. Previous research has shown that some people just don't want to pay the premium for HD programming from their cable company.
In any case, Nielsen also pointed a finger at lingering standard-definition sets. While 56 percent of U.S. homes have at least one HDTV, most also have old tube TVs kicking around, so people in these homes end up watching a third of all broadcasts in standard definition.
In total, high-definition programs account for 13 percent of cable viewing and 19 percent of broadcast viewing.
Sports are the biggest driver of high definition, with 21 percent HD viewing. (Not surprisingly, retailers and TV makers hope to convert some of this interest into 3DTV sales, with promo events revolving around ESPN 3D). Children's TV shows are stuck on standard def, with just 2 percent of all viewing in HD.
Obviously, HD viewing is bound to grow over time. Tube TVs will likely be phased out as kids get HD hand-me-downs, and more HD channels will become available from cable and satellite TV providers. But cable providers will have to do a better job of convincing HDTV owners to pay for a better picture.
This story, "HDTVs Rule, But HD Program Viewing Lags" was originally published by PCWorld.