High definition television is proving itself to be a leader as a new innovation of television. The impact HDTV will have on consumers, the laws surrounding this new medium, and it’s attributes and in differences to analog television will be looked at first in this paper. Also, my research question, “How will HDTV influence consumerism in the 21st century,” will be defined and explained. Second, a look at the methods involved in writing this research report. Which primary methods were attempted and why they didn’t work? Finally, the future is taken into consideration, using suggestions for how this operating system will run more smoothly. How long will it take for consumers to catch on to the “digital” trend? Who are the major players involved, and what are their goals concerning the switch over to digital television and why? The conclusion is that digital television will be up and running this year, until every television station in the United States switches over to the digital signal, analog signals and television sets will still be in use, it will be hard for consumers to bow down and purchase 600 million new high definition television sets.
HDTV: The Emergence of a New Generation in Television
HDTV, is known in the television industry as high definition television. HDTV is paving the way as a new medium waiting to emerge as the greatest thing to hit television since color. However it’s not the 1950’s and HDTV is already up and running in other markets. Japan’s NHK broadcasting group used 1125/60 equipment and European ZDF broadcasters used 1250/50 equipment to cover the 1996 Atlanta games using the HDTV signal (Hitchen, 1997). Although no one could receive the signal except experimental digital televisions, a converter was used to broadcast the higher standards of digital television to a European 625/50 PAL format with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (Hitchen, 1997). In the U.S. the NTSC 525/60 standards are just a tad obfuscate than that of the European 625/50 PAL format due to Europe’s extra one hundred scan lines (Brown, 1992). NTSC, PAL and Secam are the standard analog technical systems now in use throughout the world, all provide a highly successful color television service to home viewers within the VHF and UHF bandwidth using a process known as interlacing (Benson, and Fink, 1991). The digital wide screen format creates luminance detail or pixels, by employing a video bandwidth five times as large as the conventional analog methods listed above (Benson,1991).
The HDTV Set and it’s Attributes
To broadcast digitally in North America would require the emergence of the high definition television set. Right now the only high definition television sets being produced are 60 plus inch models (Rubin, 1998). Rubin goes on to state that some prototypes were displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two weeks ago, prices were in the ten thousand dollar range. These new high definition television sets will deliver the clearest possible picture
and CD quality sound (Rubin, 1998). In the Rubin article (1998) Jim Topping, general manager at KGO had an appropriate quote related to the visual experience of an HDTV set, his comment
was this, “There is no doubt in my mind that if we work to the limits of the new technology, it will provide television at it’s best, which is experiential.” He went on to say, “Watching a movie on a
high definition television set will be very close to the movie experience in a movie theater.”(p.D5) Although I for one am not about to stop going to the movies as soon as an HDTV set is in my livingroom.The key to the improvement of HDTV is the broadcast image that is produced to create the picture (Brown, 1992). HDTV will offer 1080 scan lines, more than twice the amount of the current NTSC system we have now in North America (Brown, 1992). This results in a larger aspect ratio, or ratio of width to height, 16:9 compared to the NTSC’s aspect ratio of 4:3, nearly 4 times larger than the current analog system (Rubin, 1998). Rubin also suggests that the digital resolution will be extremely vivid and the number of pixels will increase from 300 thousand to 2 million comparatively. With these dramatic changes about to occur in television, how will consumers react? What will be the their changing needs?
The electronics industry wants HDTV to have a solid impact on the consumer market, they don’t want HDTV to turn out like the Betamax incident (Rubin, 1998). Consumers first need to be convinced that this product will out preform the existing product. This might be hard to do because there are many people that believe that their television’s reception, resolution, sound, size and functions are just fine and feel no need for a new television set. The FCC is on the consumers side. In 1991 the FCC ruled that any HDTV standard ultimately transmitted by
broadcasters would have to be compatible to the existing home receiving equipment so that consumers that purchased television sets wouldn’t lose their investments because the technology had changed (Brown, 1992).The consumers will not need to look very far for convincing
though, KGO may bring an HDTV demonstration as early as march to a local San Francisco BART station (Rubin, 1998). This leads to my research question. How will HDTV influence consumerism in the 21st century? It’s defined in terms of the public’s changing needs in a trend setting environment. The Rubin article led to this quote in relation to my research question: “Seeing is believing,” said Larry Thorpe, vice president of acquisitions systems who arranged a digital demonstration at the Sony Electronics Inc. in San Jose on January 5th 1998 had this to say as well, “The whole idea is to immerse the viewer in what is happening on the screen.” (p.D5) For consumers to purchase the HDTV sets, consumers will want to see the difference and be shown the difference between NTSC resolution and digital resolution (Consumer reports,1996). So what, there are currently 600 million television sets in North America, in order for people to get the digital signal they must purchase a high definition television set (Love,1997). But because of FCC regulations consumers aren’t obligated to purchase an HDTV set.
I was able to find a great deal of information from my secondary sources most of which I found at the J. Paul Leonard library at SFSU. I found an essay on line entitled, “The Future of Television.” The perspective came from a person who lived in the United Kingdom and had an interesting point of view on Terrestrial television. I was unsuccessful in gathering a primary data method. The Primary methods I chose were a survey (Appendix 1) and an interview.
Unfortunately I was unable to get in touch with Sylvia Rubin, a San Francisco Chronicle staff reporter who wrote an Article based on HDTV. Time constraints caused this problem, I’m sure if I had a whole semester to do this research I would have at least made contact and tried to conduct the interview. I would consider her an expert on HDTV that is why I wanted to conduct an interview with her. The survey started as a feasible primary data gathering method. The survey is one of the best ways to gain consumer interest information.Again the problem was time constricting. In order to get a reliable amount of information I would need to survey at least one hundred people and my standards for the survey were high, I needed a certain age group as well as a certain financial group in order to make the survey’s data logical.
In April of 1997 the Federal Communications Commission granted digital airwave licenses to 1,600 television stations in North America (Rubin, 1998). Rubin then elaborates on this topic saying that:
The deadline of late 1998 will be set to begin transmission at 26 stations in the top
ten markets, which include the Bay Area (the fifth largest market). By November
1999, network affiliates in the next twenty largest markets will kick in, and by the
spring of 2002, remaining commercial stations will switch over. Stations will transmit
both signals until 2006, but in reality it will probably take several more years to complete the transition. (P.D5)
KGO’s general manager Jim Topping believes KGO will be the first, spending over 20 million dollars to complete the changeover to digital (Rubin, 1998). Transmitters are being built and put
up at Sutro towers, but KGO is not the only local station putting up transmitters, KPIX, KRON, and KTVU also have started the long and extremely expensive transition (Rubin, 1998). As for consumers, will HDTV cause a trend in the electronics industry? That question is mere speculation at this point. Consumer HDTV models aren’t due to hit the electronic appliance stores until Fall 1998 (Consumer reports, 1996). The Bay Area is the market where digital television will happen first and it’s an opportunity to create a buying frenzy, just what the consumer electronics industry is drooling over (Rubin, 1998). According to the Rubin article, if by June 1st you have a high definition television set, you will be able to receive the digital signal from KGO television. Digital television will be in effect before the end of this year. Until every television station has switched to the digital signal, analog signals and television sets will still be in use. It’s going to take a lot of time and advertising to convince consumers to purchase 600 million high definition television sets.
One strength of this study, a great deal of new information was at my fingertips either from an online source, or the chronicle which I receive at my home. I didn’t have to dig to deep to find new information. One weakness of this study, extremely pressed for time my efforts were stressed. Although I feel I covered the subject fairly well and accurate. For the future, I hope my research will have some impact on the link between technology and consumerism. Maybe future researchers will be able to look back and correct some aspects from my research. Maybe I’ll decide to go back and continue this research at a later date.
Benson, K. B., & Fink, D. G. (1991). HDTV: Advanced television for the 1990’s. New York: McGraw Hill.
Brown, L. (1992). Les Brown’s encyclopedia of television. (Vol.1, p259). Detroit: Gale Publishing Co.
Hitchen, E. (1997). Wide-screen television at the Sydney Olympics. SMPTE Journal, 7, 486-488.
Love, K. (1997). The Future of Television. www.student.brad.ac.uk/ktlove/academic/misc/futuretv.html.
Rubin, S. (1998, January 6). In your face TV, new digital signal promises crystal clear picture and monster television sets. Datebook. The San Francisco Chronicle, D1, D5.
TV’s changing picture. (1996, December). Consumer Reports, 12, 10-16.
(Appendix 1)- A 20 question survey that was never conducted due to time constraints.