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Leichtman Research Group: Almost 30M HD Households

There are close to 30 million U.S. households today with a display capable of showing HDTV, according to industry analyst Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research Group.

Leichtman’s latest study of HDTV penetration, based on a survey of 1,300 households across the country, indicated that about one-quarter of U.S. households own at least one HDTV display, which would equate to some 28 million sets based on Nielsen Media Research’s total U.S. TV-household number of 112.4 million.

But Leichtman said that number -- double the HD penetration of two years ago -- probably climbed a percentage point or two in the month since the survey was conducted.

“Today it’s at about 26%, and we’re closing in on 30 million households,” Leichtman said in an interview.

Leichtman’s figures are lower than estimates from the Consumer Electronics Association, which said that HD household penetration stood at 32% in July, or some 36 million homes. But it’s much higher than estimates from measurement giant Nielsen, which said only 21% of U.S. households, or some 23.6 million, have HD displays.

While Nielsen focused on the smaller subsets of “HD Capable” (15.5 million) and “HD Receivable” (12.7 million) homes that have HD tuners in a report on HD penetration it released last week, Leichtman’s study simply asked consumers whether they have a display capable of showing HD programming. Since the overwhelming majority of consumers rely on cable or satellite to get their programming, that makes more sense, Leichtman said, as all of those HD displays could potentially receive content by simply hooking up to an HD set-top box.

Leitchman’s HD study, his fifth annual report on the subject, found that consumers were still confused over HDTV. While more than 75% of HDTV owners said they were watching HD programming, he estimated that only 53% (perhaps 15.9 million homes) of HD households are getting HD from a cable, satellite or telco operator.

That number is in line with estimates from major cable programmers, which said set-top data indicate that around 15 million homes get HD from multichannel operators. Leichtman estimated that another 4% (perhaps as much as 1.2 million) of HD households are getting HD from over-the-air broadcasts.

Other findings:

• Only 41% of HDTV owners said they were told how to receive HD programming when they purchased the set.

• About 40% of HDTV owners believe they have an HD DVD player, which is much higher than actual sales figures for Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, Leichtman said.