CEMA: Forrester Research Wrong on HDTV
Rather than committing to ultra-high-quality picture and sound, Bernoff believes local broadcasters will use their allotted bandwidth for multiple channels of standard definition TV (SDTV). Multiplicity of choice, not maximization of quality, is the option most consumers and broadcasters will choose, according to Bernoff.
According to Shapiro, Forrester Research is way off the mark with this prediction; in fact, he characterized Bernoff's report as little more than an opinion piece. Speaking for his entire organization, Shapiro replied tersely: "The Forrester Research results are wrong. Forrester makes predictions in its report about what consumers want without talking to consumers. Our HDTV research is based on consumer opinion surveys and consumer focus groups that included HDTV demonstrations. The results of our research are clear: Consumers want high-definition TV and, in demonstration after demonstration, they express a strong preference for HDTV over standard-definition TV.
"HDTV is like ice cream. You can read about ice cream, but until you taste it, you don't know how good it is. Our research tells us that when consumers see HDTV, they are excited about the technology, and they are willing to pay for it.
"The entire history of our industry demonstrates that Americans want the best picture and sound quality that technology has to offer," Shapiro emphasized. "And 20 million households have already invested $2000 or more in their televisions. Even at its introductory prices, HDTV is a success with consumers. As prices come down---and they will---HDTV sales will go up, making this technology the next generation of television." Some industry observers believe that prices for HD receivers should drop below $1000 within three years.
Forrester's research indicates that HD receivers won't be where the real action is. The big trend will be in set-top converter boxes that will translate various digital-television signals into NTSC signals for viewing on normal analog TVs, which now have usable lifespans of 12 years or more. According to electronics-industry estimates, 98% of all American households have at least one television, and Bernoff predicts that 50% of these will have digital converters by the year 2007. Scientific Atlanta and General Instrument are two of the leaders in the development of digital set-top boxes.
CEMA envisions a different scenario, estimating that digital-television sales will reach 150,000 sets by the end of 1999, with sales of 600,000 in the year 2000. CEMA projects that the first 10 million sets will be sold by 2003, the next 10 million in 2004 and 2005, and another 10.8 million in 2006. When the Federal Communications Commission originally announced its timetable for digital broadcasting, NTSC analog broadcasting (sometimes called "legacy video") was scheduled for termination by 2006. Until it is terminated, all broadcasters will transmit programming in both formats. Forrester Research figures have fewer than 5% of the US television market equipped with HDTV receivers by that time.