Consumers are confused over how to get high-definition television (HDTV) and how much it will cost, according to a survey for the price comparison site uSwitch.com. The survey suggests 2.6m UK households plan to get HDTV over the next year, but 18% of consumers think they will only have to spend £100 or less to get it, with just 24% realising the true cost is likely to exceed £400 (based on the cost of a Sky HD box at £299 plus additional Sky HD subscription of £10 per month).
And the survey also suggests that one consumer in five does not know they need to buy a new HD Ready screen to watch the new broadcasts, while 28% do not know what HDTV is. Eight per cent of 1,000 consumers surveyed in mid-May for uSwitch.com by BMRB thought they already had HDTV. Uswitch estimates that less than 60,000 households will be able to watch the FIFA World Cup in HD when the tournament kicks off on June 9. That is based on Sky's 40,000 pre-orders for its Sky HD service, plus an estimate of 20,000 customers for Telewest's TVDrive HD service by June 9.
According to uSwitch, the confusion over HD could come from two factors: some consumers think digital television is the same as HD, while others may have bought an HD Ready flatscreen but do not realise they also need a set-top box from Sky, Telewest, or the new free-to-air satellite HD box from Pace, to enjoy HD services. In the survey 49% of those questioned did not realise they needed a new HD set-top box.
Chris Williams, digital TV product manager at uSwitch.com, said: "Until now, consumers have only been hearing about the benefits of HDTV from the broadcasters, and much has been made of the ability to watch the World Cup in HD. However, as with all new technologies, the reality is that there is a significant financial commitment involved when it is first launched, which many people don't seem to be aware of.
"Customers are confused—both as to what equipment they need to buy, and what the total cost will be. Although there has been a lot of publicity surrounding the HD broadcast of the BBC's and ITV's coverage of the World Cup on 'free-to-view' channels, viewers will still need to pay at least £10 a month to receive the HD service from either Telewest or Sky.
"There is no doubt that HDTV will be a successful format—especially as it becomes more widely available over a variety of platforms, including the internet at some point in the future. However, for many people the digital switchover is enough to contend with for now. As at the end of February 2006, there were still over 7.5m households who had yet to upgrade from analogue to digital. In the meantime, broadcasters and retailers need to educate consumers as to exactly what is required in order to benefit from HDTV, as well as spelling out the costs involved."
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