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Canadians buying more HDTV sets despite lack of knowledge and content

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HDTV/digital television
TORONTO - Ignorance is bliss when it comes to HDTV sets according to a recent survey commissioned by LG Electronics of Canada and conducted by Decima Research, Canadians are purchasing HDTV sets at a faster pace than those in the U.S., although many lack the necessary knowledge and HDTV content to optimize the viewing experience.

The survey found that recognition of HDTV technology is increasing rapidly, with approximately two-thirds of Canadians (63 per cent) stating that they know about HDTV. Twenty-one per cent of those individuals reported that they've already purchased an HDTV-ready TV; while the remaining 80 per cent have at least some interest in buying one in the future.

Overall, 16 per cent of the survey respondents said they already have an HDTV-ready set in their home. By comparison, Forrester Research estimates there will be 12 million HDTV-ready TVs in the U.S. by the end of 2005, translating to approximately 10 per cent of American homes.

"The results of this survey confirm the growing popularity of high-definition television in Canada," said Ross Snow, director of sales and marketing, LG Electronics Canada. "Considering that satellite television entered the market with a full schedule of programming and had only achieved adoption rates of 15 per cent by 2001, you begin to get a real appreciation for the gains made by HDTV in just a few short years."

However, Snow adds that awareness and popularity doesn't mean that customers fully realize the benefits of the technology. "Customers automatically assume that once they buy an HDTV-ready TV, they can sit back with the popcorn and enjoy the ride," Snow added. "But there's far more to HDTV than the beautiful sets consumers set up in their living rooms."

Few TV programs in Canada are broadcast in HD, and viewers must purchase or rent a set-top box capable of receiving HDTV, and subscribe to HD service with their local cable or satellite operator to enjoy the full experience. Many cable and satellite providers are relying on U.S. networks for HD broadcasts, LG notes, with CTV, CITY-TV, and Global being the only Canadian networks currently broadcasting HDTV channels nationally. However, the full complement of affiliates is not available in high-definition. For example, in Quebec, LG states that Videotron broadcasts in high-definition only to Montreal, Hull, Chicoutimi, and Riviere de Loup, with no French networks or programming available. Specialty channels, including CTV-owned TSN and Discovery Channel and Rogers Sportsnet, as well as local channels such as Craig Media's Toronto One, and Rogers Media's OMNI 1 and OMNI 2, have also entered the marketplace.

"Manufacturers, retailers, programmers, cable operators and broadcasters must make a more concerted effort at educating Canadian consumers about HDTV," noted Steve Preiner, director, LG Electronics Canada. "It is obvious from both our survey and from customer feedback that Canadians want HDTV. We are at a stage right now where the demand for programming is outstripping supply - a rarity in our business."

"While it is true that more networks are simulcasting their schedules on HDTV subscription channels, most of the programming offered is not in fact in HDTV," Preiner continued, "and part of the reason for that is a shortage of original Canadian HDTV programs."

Preiner feels that the CRTC, cable broadcasters, and programmers should step up and work more aggressively to keep pace with the technology advancements in global television broadcasting. "As manufacturers, there is only so much we can achieve," he said. "It is essential that an industry-wide timetable be established to ensure HDTV services keep up with the growing demand for HDTV programming."

America's television regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has already established such a timetable, stating that 50 per cent of TV receivers in the 25-to 36'' screen size must include a digital tuner, capable of receiving HDTV signals, by July 1, 2006. The CRTC, meanwhile, is encouraging transitional digital television broadcasters to ensure that two-thirds of their schedule is available in high-definition format by December 31, 2007. LG opines that the Canadian television industry risks getting left behind if the CRTC, cable providers and broadcasters do not introduce hard and fast deadlines for HDTV adoption.

"We must all work together to create a made-in-Canada solution that will make HDTV and quality HDTV programming available from coast-to-coast, in both official languages," Preiner concluded. "Canadian consumers are demanding this technology, and are voting for the future with their dollars. It's time industry and government provide the tools HDTV enthusiasts need to enjoy the spectacular sights and sounds available through today's technology."

The survey was conducted via telephone between February 10 and 13 through the Decima teleVox, a national omnibus telephone survey conducted weekly by the firm. Results were based on a sample of 1,018 adult Canadians, who were asking about the opinions, awareness, and interests of HTV, linkage to viewing habits on sporting events, and the relationship between them.

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