Are Digital TVs Being Returned Because Some People Don't Understand High Definition?

Martin O'Donnell recently visited Costco Warehouse #1 in Seattle, where he saw the following sign:

All Digital TVs at Costco are displaying High Definition content. In order to view the same picture quality at home, you must upgrade to HD programming.

Martin added, "It goes on to explain how a standard definition signal displayed on an HDTV may be 'disappointing'. I'm guessing that the number of returns by 'disappointed' consumers has hit a fairly high level."

This story may have more legs than readers of Operation Gadget realize. According to an article on, a recent survey of HDTV owners commissioned by Scientific Atlanta indicated that 49 percent of HDTV owners aren't taking advantage of the HD features of their sets. This means that they don't receive HD programming because they lack "an HD set-top box, a CableCARD, and/or an {over-the-air HD} antenna".

The article goes on to point out:

  • "... 28% of HDTV owners reported that they did not get any special equipment from their service provider to watch HDTV channels because the picture quality was already improved with the purchase of an HDTV."
  • "23% of HDTV owners did not invest in special equipment to watch HDTV channels because a message at the beginning of the programs they watch tells them that those programs are being broadcast in HD."
  • "... 18% reported that they believed the HD television would give them high-definition channels without additional equipment."

If a relative or friend who isn't technically-oriented suddenly announces that he or she is buying an HDTV set, try to assess their understanding of the technology and equipment and service requirements. If they don't seem to know what they need to know in order to take best advantage of the technology, consider recommending a how to book such as HDTV for Dummies or The Home Electronics Survival Guide.