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Harvard Business School

Rev. July 24, 1991

Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)
On August 1, 1990, Bruce Huber, VP of marketing at Zenith Electronics Corporation, was meeting with CEO Jerry Pearlman. They were discussing Zenith’s options regarding high definition television (HDTV), a new technology that produced higher resolution (i.e., sharper pictures) and superior digital stereo sound. It could also permit larger screen sizes and wider screen pictures. The company had to decide how to forecast demand for this new technology and whether to conduct a study to assess consumer preferences for the new wider screen format implied by HDTV. The recently retired president of Zenith’s Consumer Products Group, Bob Hansen, had recommended that Zenith study whether consumers preferred the 16:9 wide screen aspect ratio proposed for HDTV or the current, relatively square NTSC (National Television Systems Committee) standard of 4:3, found in all TV sets in the United States. (A TV’s aspect ratio was defined as the ratio of the image’s width to its height.) If consumers really preferred the 16:9 shape, Zenith would have to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new plants and equipment to produce wide shape picture tubes larger than 28” in diagonal. For sizes under 28” the investment would be insignificant. Pearlman turned to Huber and asked a series of questions: “We need to know what are the forecasts of HDTV demand from 1992 to the year 2000 under a pessimistic, most likely, and optimistic scenario. How should we define these scenarios? How much of what we already know about color TV buyers will help us assess the market for HDTV? What additional marketing research, if any, should we do now in order to assess the situation related to HDTV introduction? Hansen was a proponent of the aspect ratio study, but what do you think of it?” As he listened to these questions, Huber recognized that answering them would be challenging.

Zenith Electronics Corporation
With net sales of $1.549 billion in 1989, Zenith manufactured consumer electronics products (mainly color TV sets and video recorders), color picture tubes, color computer monitors, cable products, and high-tech electronic components such as monochrome displays, power supplies, and automotive electronics. Headquartered in Glenview, Illinois, Zenith employed more than 32,000 people worldwide. Although brand and distribution were among its strengths, results from continuing operations were
Professor Fareena Sultan prepared this case as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. Certain quantitative data and other information have been disguised. Copyright © 1990 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685 or write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.



Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)

disappointing in 1989. Despite sales volume increases, Zenith saw a net loss of $17 million compared to a net loss of $11 million in 1988. Sales for continuing operations were $1,549 million in 1989 compared to $1,401 million in 1988. Zenith consumer electronics sales increased 9% from $1,186 million in 1988 to $1,288 million in 1989, due mainly to increased shipments of color TV sets, picture tubes sold to other manufacturers, and high-resolution color monitors. Color TV unit shipments also increased 9% in 1989, but the operating income of consumer electronics was essentially unchanged from 1988. Even though almost 22 million color TV sets were sold in the United States during 1989, Zenith senior management felt that consumer electronics was a tough business for both the company and its competitors. Profits from the nonconsole tabletop TVs had been seriously eroded due to competition from Far East manufacturers; only sales of console TVs (on-the-floor, larger TVs) were still showing positive results. Zenith sales to dealers in 1989 and estimated suggested retail prices are shown in Exhibit 1. Zenith was a player in the nonconsole projection TV business (with the average retail price of units in the $2,000 to $3,000 range). It annually made about three million CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes) in sizes ranging from 19” to 27” and sold many of these to their competitors. However, Zenith bought CRTs that were smaller than 19” and bigger than 27” for its TV sets of those sizes.

The TV Industry
The first public broadcast of black and white TV took place at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Controversy over standard-setting led to the creation of NTSC, which in 1941 proposed a monochrome transmission standard1 that was adopted by the FCC. In 1953, after a three-year battle over transmission (broadcast) standards, the FCC adopted a compatible color TV system that allowed consumers to receive the new color broadcasts on their black and white TVs, although the images would still be in monochrome. The first generation of color receivers entered the U.S. marketplace in 1956. By the late 1960s, American and foreign TV manufacturers were headed technologically in opposite directions. U.S. manufacturers relied on tested tube technology to produce larger sets; Japanese firms specialized in smaller units incorporating semiconductor technology. By 1976 35% of the color TVs sold in the United States were imports. The growth in TV and related innovations is shown in Exhibit 2. Even though color TV was introduced in 1955, its growth was slow until 1965, when it took off. Part of the problem was the scarcity of color TV programs. However, VCR adoption rapidly increased with the VHS format primarily because of price declines and software availability: nearly 70% of U.S. households had adopted it by 1990. Total annual factory sales of TVs in the United States from 1971 to 1989 are shown in Exhibit 3. Sales of large screen TVs (20” and larger) steadily increased, from 2.28 million units in 1975 to 9.73 million in 1988. Projection TV sales to dealers increased from 265,645 units in 1985 to 301,784 by 1989. Although by 1987 twenty companies were manufacturing color TVs and components in 35 U.S. cities, only two companies were owned by U.S.-based companies. By 1990 Zenith was the only U.S.-owned TV manufacturer.

1The NTSC standard had 525 lines per picture frame, a 4:3 aspect ratio, and a 6 MHz channel allocation for

broadcasting. 2

Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)


Industry Competitors
In 1990, the U.S. color TV industry was a mature one (with 98% of U.S. households owning a color TV) and extremely competitive. Key competitors were Thomson (RCA/GE brands) at 22% market share, Zenith (12%), North American Philips (including Magnavox, Sylvania, Philco, and Philips brands), at 11%, and Sony at 6%. (Source: Appliance magazine, Sept. 1989, p. 72.) Although the industry was seeing record sales volumes, low margins made the business very uncertain. Pearlman noted, “The biggest issue facing us is to find a way to survive with a 25% margin when fixed manufacturing costs and Selling, General, and Administrative expenses are much higher as a percentage of sale at Zenith’s volume level. The real need is to find segments in this mature industry that one can still market innovative color TVs to.”

High Definition Television
The Electronic Industries Association (EIA) described HDTV as the next generation of TV technology being developed by broadcasters, direct broadcast satellite, cable and fiber optic interests, and TV manufacturers. According to the EIA, “High Definition” in TV could be measured by the resolution of the picture or the number of horizontal and vertical lines scanned on the TV screen. HDTV would scan many more lines and have twice the horizontal and vertical resolution than the NTSC standard, providing a clarity and sharpness to TV pictures otherwise available only on 35 mm film.

Key HDTV Developments2
In 1984 the Japanese government and industry members agreed upon a HDTV transmission standard called MUSE,3 which was incompatible with NTSC. That same year, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) was formed in the United States by members of various trade associations to examine issues related to advanced TV systems, including HDTV, and to make recommendations to the FCC about the technology. Two years later, the European Community launched its own research project to develop a competing HDTV system. It thought that adopting the MUSE standard would result in Japanese domination of the global consumer electronics market. Three types of standards were at play in HDTV development: 1. Broadcast or transmission standards, regulated by FCC, which affected broadcasters. 2. Production standards which affected producers and studios. 3. Display (TV set) standards which affected TV set manufacturers. The debate on standards much quoted in the press related to the broadcast (transmission) standards. In July 1987 the FCC convened a blue-ribbon panel on HDTV transmission (broadcast)

2For further details, see "Zenith and High Definition Television 1990," HBS case No. 391-084, 2/28/91. 3The MUSE HDTV standard had 1,125 scanning lines and 8.1 MHz of bandwidth, and broadcasting was to be

mainly satellite rather than terrestrial, as in the U.S.



Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)

standards to consider the many competing proposals for transmission standards; three years later the standards were still being developed, and the FCC indicated it would make its decision by the end of 1992. In September 1988, the FCC issued a tentative decision on HDTV transmission standards which supported a standard that would not make existing TV sets obsolete. The FCC was not involved in the debate on either production or display standards. Manufacturers were free to build and sell TV displays of various standards, but the selection of a particular transmission standard would directly affect the type of images broadcast and hence, received by TV sets. (Although Zenith was a TV set manufacturer it was also developing a broadcast/transmission standard.) By summer 1990, NHK, Japan’s state-owned TV broadcasting company, began limited HDTV satellite broadcasts using the MUSE system in Japan. Regular transmissions of HDTV broadcasts were anticipated to begin that fall.

Zenith’s High Definition Systems Efforts4
As of March 1990 two major efforts related to High Definition Systems (HDS) were underway at Zenith. One involved research for advanced picture-tube technology or better displays; the other was for HDTV broadcast systems. Zenith’s “Flat Tension Mask” (FTM) CRT displays could be used for computer monitors, workstations, and eventually TV receivers. FTM displays had flat-faced CRTs and higher resolution than traditional curved screens. Zenith currently made 14” FTM highresolution color displays and planned to have 16” workstation displays by the end of 1991, and 20” tubes and displays by the end of 1992. Significant resources were also being spent to develop Zenith’s “Spectrum Compatible”5 HDTV transmission system for high-definition broadcasting, which was scheduled for FCC testing in February 1991. Even if the FCC approved Zenith’s Spectrum Compatible HDTV Broadcasting system, with a typical price of $1/unit for patents and current TV sales in the industry at 22 million units, Zenith’s senior management recognized that the revenue from HDTV patent licensing in the United States would be limited. In 1990 Zenith’s investment in HDS research was $10 million, a tenfold increase from the previous year. Zenith estimated that overall it would invest over $50 million in HDS-related R&D principally for displays. This would not include funds for marketing and consumer research, which were part of the marketing budget.

Marketing at Zenith
Zenith’s 1990 marketing budget covered product management, market planning (which included marketing research), and advertising. The firm had traditionally used its budget in a “pull” (advertising-based) communications strategy. Although declining in recent years, the Zenith name was still second-to-none in quality image and retail drawing power; it was especially strong among consumers over the age of 55.

4For further details on this see "Zenith and High Definition Television 1990," HBS case No. 391-084, 2/28/91. 5“Spectrum Compatible” offered HDTV pictures with five times the picture information of conventional TV in

the same channel space as existing NTSC broadcast standards, and permitted use of all channels, including those blocked (or “taboo”) in the NTSC system. The Wall Street Journal of March 22, 1990 reported that this system was probably the front-runner in the standards race.


Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)


The advent of high volume, margin-oriented retailers in the 1980s, however, had forced Zenith to reevaluate its strategy. Their rapid growth gave them considerable influence over manufacturers, and Zenith found itself forced into a “push” strategy where scarce resources were increasingly being directed to these large retailers. In 1990, one-third of its color TV sales were made direct to such “superstores.” With a national advertising budget of less than 1% of sales, Huber knew it was important to target his advertising communications carefully. In 1990 Zenith TV advertising appeared primarily during NFL football games as a part of its “concentration” strategy to build Zenith brand awareness and enhance its image among consumers aged 25-49.

Marketing Research at Zenith
Marketing research at Zenith traditionally included a service function for top management, sales planning, advertising, and product management. Exhibit 4 is a breakdown of the 1990 marketing research budget of $500,000. While top management initiated a few studies, most were generated from within the marketing area. Huber explained, “Historically, marketing research had not been an important function in the company. This was due in part to the fact that consumer electronics in general, and TV in particular, was a technology-driven business; most marketing at Zenith was traditionally done by gut feeling.” Pearlman concurred: Doing marketing research slows new product introduction. We need to speed product development. Often this means skip the prototype. Empirically, I have not found marketing research to be useful for innovative products and have generally avoided doing it. We research it among ourselves—Zenith’s employees. Some useful feedback could be obtained from dealers, but in general it is not useful for product design before introduction. Pearlman noted, however, I do see positive aspects of marketing research. I see its role in addressing issues of product styling once the product has been built. Other benefits are that we can get ideas of customer usage and purchasing behavior. It allows us to do market segmentation. It helps in setting up our communications strategy. Marketing research gives input to the advertising theme to be used and indicates what our target audience ought to be, and the most appropriate media for this target. That’s where I see a role for marketing research for innovative products like HDTV: more in product positioning and communications, and not in determining product features or attributes. At best, all we can test at present is the preference for the shape of the picture. We don’t have the hardware or software to really test the high-resolution feature of HDTV. Several marketing research methods were employed; however, most of the marketing department’s research was quantitative. For example, it had commissioned a large-screen TV preference study that employed conjoint analysis.6 Its objective was to determine how consumers

6 Conjoint analysis, a quantitative market research technique, allowed measuring consumer preferences for

various product attributes and understanding the tradeoff consumers were willing to make between attributes. The market researcher needs to decide which attributes and what levels of these attributes should be investigated. Consumers are presented profiles of products with these various levels. They either rank-order 5


Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)

rated the relative importance of screen size, price, and picture quality when evaluating different large-screen TVs. Sales planning used information from this study to forecast the impact that largescreen (31” and 35”) direct-view color TVs would have on the projection TV market and on large screen (27”) table model and console TV market segments.

Color TV Marketing Research and Key Consumer Behavior Findings
In 1988 Zenith conducted one-on-one in-depth interviews of 24 men and 24 women who had purchased new color TVs in the previous six months. The interviews, held in Chicago and Baltimore, were to determine how, why, and when consumers made certain buying decisions so that Zenith could better influence brand choice. The key findings of this study are summarized below. • Consumers looked for value for their money and stayed within their budgets. Nobody purchased a brand that had been previously ruled out. Most were satisfied with their recent purchases. Product. Picture quality was the most important evaluative criterion. Also considered were product features (such as remote control, and stereo sound), style, and warranty. Particular TV brands were not considered as status symbols in general. However, larger screen sizes were a status symbol for some consumers. Price. All consumers had a ballpark budget and stayed close to it. The lowest price was not usually considered an advantage since most consumers were suspicious of products that were too cheap. The usual pattern was to seek the “most” TV that could be purchased with the budgeted amount of money. Distribution. Most consumers shopped at a number of stores and got the most information at retail outlets rather than through advertising. Promotion. Advertising with an informational, product-oriented focus seemed to go unnoticed, whereas consumers noticed ads for store specials and sales. Only for some was buying American brands important.

• •

Findings from three recent surveys (the 1988 Trendata Color Television Tracking Survey, the 1989 Image and Awareness Survey, and the 1989 Color TV Incidence Survey) indicated that Zenith enjoyed high performance ratings with color TV consumers. Results are shown in Exhibits 5 through 8. The 1989 Color TV Incidence survey showed that about one-fourth of U.S. households owned a Zenith color TV. RCA was a close second with 24.5% of households, Sony 9.5%, Magnavox 9.1%, and GE 8.4% respectively. In 1989 a color TV segmentation study was conducted to update information on customer segments, using “Cluster Analysis” techniques. The marketing group identified three customer segments: 1) Performance/Features Buyers, 2) Experience Buyers, and 3) Price Buyers. Their distribution in the population and market share of Zenith, RCA, and Sony by segment group is shown in Exhibit 9.

these profiles or state the preferred one in a paired comparison. These overall evaluations are then disaggregated via computer programs such that the utility to the consumer of each level of an attribute can be 6

Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)


Zenith also purchased syndicated consumer surveys like those by IMR (Industrial Marketing Research) Inc., whose 1989 report provided information on color TV buying patterns. Field work for this report was conducted among 200 panels of 1,000 households each. These panels matched U.S. census data for household distribution in nine geographic regions. The IMR survey indicated that 18.95% of the 91,257,000 households in the United States purchased a color TV in 1989; the average retail price was $376. RCA was the most prominent brand during 1989, with Zenith as number two. The most important retail outlets for color TVs were TV and Appliance stores. It was estimated that 19,230,990 color TV sets would be purchased in 1990. Per capita consumption of TVs was lowest in the West, and the Mid-Atlantic had the highest per capita consumption. Only 44 of the total 7,571 purchases were of TV sets priced $1,000 or over, and sales peaked in December 1989. The average age of the purchaser was 44 years, with a majority of the purchases made by people aged 25-44, who bought 4,081 of the 7,571 sets. Almost half of the panel who bought TV sets had incomes of $30,000 to $50,000.

Non-Zenith TV Buyers
In December 1989, Zenith commissioned America’s Research Group to do a qualitative study using focus groups to determine perception of Zenith among non-Zenith buyers. Six focus groups were conducted in Atlanta and Philadelphia at a cost of $30,000. Each group had eight individuals aged 25-44 years who had bought RCA, Magnavox, Sony, or Mitsubishi color TVs. The general perceptions of Zenith are listed below. 1. They thought Zenith had an “old” image. The problem was not that Zenith had been around so long but that it hadn’t changed. 2. They perceived that Zenith “used to be a good” TV brand. Most remembered that their parents owned either Zenith or RCA. 3. Many associated Zenith with the malfunctioning TVs their parents owned. 4. They questioned the quality of today’s Zenith TV. 5. They did not recall Zenith advertising. 6. They did not recall seeing Zenith on the sales floor. 7. Although American-made was perceived as a potential advantage for Zenith, quality would continue to be the main determinant of brand choice regardless of country of origin.

Forecasting HDTV Demand
The EIA was forecasting that HDTV would penetrate 25% of all U.S. households by the end of the twentieth century. For his part, Pearlman predicted there would be at best a 10% penetration of the total TV industry by 1999. Most studies, however, forecast that HDTV penetration would be like that of color TV, a much slower penetration than Pearlman’s projections (see Exhibit 10).

obtained. See P. Green and Y. Wind (1975) “New Way to Measure Consumers’ Judgments,” HBR, 53, 107-117. 7


Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)

Forecasting HDTV Adoption by Analogy
Although color TV had a slow early growth, by 1990 it had penetrated 98% of all U.S. households. The VCR, with a faster penetration rate, had become volume driven with low margins. Camcorders, however, existed in only 10% of households, and had good profit margins with average retail prices around $1,000. Projection TV had penetrated 4% of U.S. households with an average retail price of around $2,500. It remained to be determined whether the penetration curve for HDTV would be like color TV, VCRs, or projection TV. When projection TV was introduced it was not adopted rapidly because of poor picture quality. In 1990, 31” and 35” CRTs were available that had stolen share from smaller projection TVs. The larger screen projection sizes (45” and over) were still available and growing. Another factor in forecasting HDTV demand was that NTSC sets would continue to be sold even when HDTV was introduced. In 1989, two million black and white TV sets were sold along with color TV sets.

Marketing’s Role in Forecasting Demand for HDTV
Zenith’s sales forecasts and five-year industry forecasts for color TVs were usually made by the sales planning department. Econometric models predicted the percentage change in color TV industry sales as a function of economic indicators such as interest rates, housing starts, and change in households. Regression analysis was used to estimate these econometric models. The variables were those for which five-year forecasts were readily available. Results of these forecasting studies are displayed in Exhibits 11 to 14. Barry Golembiewski, Zenith marketing research specialist, noted that “Even though sales planning people may forecast aggregate demand, we still need to develop models of the adoption process.” The adoption curves could then be fed as input. For a new technology like HDTV, the Marketing department was expected to have a greater impact on forecasts. There were no historical trend data or sales data for this new technology that would allow one to forecast HDTV sales using aggregate models like new-product diffusion models. In October 1988, Bruce Huber had been involved in making rough projections of the HDTV U.S. market. Traditionally, 11% of the 25” and larger sets had been selling for over $1,000. Since it was assumed that HDTV would have larger screen sets and would be priced in this range, he had looked at industry projections of this set size and price range. Then he made an arbitrary assumption about the percentage of sets that would be HDTV in each year. This gave him a set of forecasts, shown in Exhibit 15, which would be updated under pessimistic, most likely, and optimistic scenarios. If a scenario unfolded where broadcast standards were readily adopted, producers and studios made investment in programs, TV stations invested in new broadcast equipment, and TV manufacturers had HDTV sets available, then HDTV would take off if consumers perceived the picture quality and superior sound to be worth the premium price for the TV set. However, in an alternative scenario where even if broadcast issues were resolved, and HDTV sets were readily available by TV set manufacturers, there were not enough quality HDTV programming available, HDTV may not take off, as consumers may not see the benefit of these HDTV sets without the availability of a variety of programs. Zenith had recently created a task force to update its current estimate of HDTV demand. The task force consisted of Huber, the VP of marketing cable products, the director of R&D, the VP of sales planning, the VP of engineering, the corporate controller, and the VP for public affairs. Its purpose was to predict HDTV volume and associated target price, completing this effort by fall 1990.

Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)


Marketing would play a more active role in forecasting HDTV demand than it had for color TV because marketing research could provide insights on consumer acceptance of this new technology.

HDTV Consumer Research
The working parties of the FCC Advisory Committee on Advanced TV were not testing whether consumers wanted HDTV but rather which broadcast standard should be adopted. Working Party Seven (WP7) of the FCC was also looking at audience (consumer) research for HDTV. As of summer 1990, WP7 proposed $1 million worth of consumer research, but no funds were available for it from the government or private enterprise. Huber pointed out that, “Lots of issues are not in the common interest of many of the participants of WP7 (which consisted of academics, researchers, manufacturers, and cable TV and network operators).” Thus, Zenith was not interested in investing in WP7 research, instead devoting its limited resources to its own research, like the aspect ratio study under consideration. Past research at the MIT Media Lab, led by Professor Russell Neumann, had shown that not all consumers wanted HDTV under all scenarios. Of this finding, Huber noted: “Such academic research puts everybody on notice to proceed cautiously. For companies like Zenith, such research forces us to have no misconceptions about HDTV acceptance. It also indicates a need to do our own research.”

HDTV Marketing Research at Zenith
The marketing group felt that any time there were product improvements, even if marginal, innovators would buy the product. The issue for marketing was to determine how large the market would be, and what features and attributes consumers were willing to pay extra for. The marketing group thought HDTV would be only a small part of the overall TV market in the early stages. Huber said, “Contrary to popular press reports, we are not betting the company on it. As such, any marketing research we propose needs to take that fact into account.” No consumer research on HDTV had yet been done at the company. Some in the marketing group thought they needed to find out immediately what premiums people would pay for Zenith HDTV. They could do qualitative studies to identify who the early adopters would be. Others thought the aspect ratio study made more sense because people might not want 16:9 sets even though the industry offered them. Moreover, if all consumers did want the wider shape, Zenith would know what it was up against.

The Aspect Ratio Study
HDTV Aspect Ratio Issues
According to CEO Pearlman, “HDTV is associated with the new aspect ratio of 16:9, leading to wider screens. The FCC is under pressure not to go ‘substandard’ and so would be hard pressed to adopt a standard that was not 16:9.” He thought one of the positive benefits of 16:9 was that it would be visibly different because of its wider shape. The all-new technology would be easier to differentiate on a wider screen compared to the existing NTSC standard of 4:3. He said, “With our marketing hats on, it is easier to sell something that is visibly different, i.e., a new, wider shape. However, with our cost hats on, we know that for equal height, a 30% wider screen of HDTV is a lot more expensive. For example, a 27” height set in wider screen 16:9 would end up costing $300 more


Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)

at retail.” Since only 3%-4% of TVs were sold at above $1,000 retail, this $300 premium would be a lot for consumers to pay. On direct-view TV the cost per tube would go up substantially to produce 16:9 sets, whereas with projection TV there would be no substantial penalty. Pearlman also knew that broadcasters would continue to broadcast in 4:3 aspect ratios even after HDTV’s advent. He felt that if Zenith were not a transmission standards proponent (for its Spectrum Compatible HDTV transmission standard), it would be completely passive about HDTV at this stage. He also thought the Japanese HDTV standards had no chance of being adopted by the United States.

The Aspect Ratio Research Proposal
According to Steve Sigman, director of market planning, the main objective of the study would be to measure consumer preferences for TV aspect ratio (16:9 or 4:3) with equal height and/or equal diagonal displays using Conjoint Analysis. They were not planning to investigate consumer aspect ratio preferences among equal width displays, since Advanced Television Testing Center research planned under the auspices of FCC’s Working Party 6 would address that issue. The secondary objectives of the study would be: 1) to determine changes in consumer preferences at various price differentials; 2) to determine changes in consumer preferences with different program content; 3) to determine changes in consumer preferences with different diagonal sizes. RCA’s past research on aspect ratios had used a nonrepresentative convenience sample of RCA employees and had found overwhelming preference for the 16:9 display under all combinations of equal height, equal area, equal diagonal, and equal width. Zenith’s marketing researchers thought the RCA study did not take into account the more adverse circumstances under which consumers would view displays in the real world. For example, RCA’s respondents had not realized that some programming on 16:9 displays would appear with “side curtains” and some on the 4:3 displays would appear “letterboxed.” In a “side curtain” image the picture would appear in the center of the screen with the left and right sides blank. In a “letterboxed” image the top and bottom of the screen would be blank. Zenith executives were quite sure that even though consumers might buy a 16:9 aspect ratio TV in the future, they would still receive a considerable amount of older programming in the 4:3 format. This would appear with “side curtains” on their new 16:9 TV. Consumers who kept their older 4:3 TV even after new 16:9 broadcasts started would see these new broadcasts with “letterboxing” on their older sets.

Research Methodology
A survey would be conducted among 2,250 respondents recruited from a shopping mall in a single city, and participants would be selected to approximate the relevant demographic characteristics of past-year TV buyers as described by IMR. The equipment would be NTSC and not HDTV in terms of picture quality; the research would assume that consumer preferences for screen shape using NTSC equipment would be similar to those if HDTV equipment were used, and that there would not be any interactions with the higher-resolution feature of HDTV. Pretests would be necessary to ensure that consumers did not detect a reduction in resolution, which occurred when masking a larger 4:3 display to simulate a 16:9 display. All displays would appear in an appropriate frame in an observation wall in the test setting. NTSC software of a movie, a news program, and a sports event would be developed to simulate 16:9 programming with and without side curtains, and 4:3 programming with and without letterboxing. Program requirements for test comparisons are summarized in Figures 1 and 2.

Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)


The survey would use a paired-comparison conjoint methodology, whereby respondents would be repeatedly asked to select one of two possible options. After initial screening, respondents would be led to a viewing room where they would be exposed to a series of comparisons between comparable-size sets of different aspect ratios. The sample would be divided into five groups of 450 respondents each. Each group would view one base screen size. A third of the respondents in each group would view a news program, another third a film, and the rest sports. All would consider various price differentials and be exposed to side-curtains and letterboxed displays. Respondents would also be asked to indicate their overall preference, their degree of preference, willingness to purchase, and other measures of preference. The main method of analysis, conjoint analysis, would result in an understanding of how respondents made tradeoffs among the various features under investigation, and would be supplemented by cross-tabulations of responses by various demographic segments. This version of the aspect ratio study would cost about $125,000 to conduct and could be started in a few months.

Alternative Proposals for HDTV Marketing Research
Dealer research Sigman believed that even though the industry was mature, TV was not a commodity product; it was sold by someone who could influence the adoption of a new technology like HDTV. Zenith had not yet done any formal HDTV research with dealers, but it had asked them informally about market preferences and did have access to syndicated dealer data. The marketing group was familiar with proposals to study consumers’ preference in realistic buying situations made by some researchers like those at NBC, which wanted to simulate a TV store and study preferences for NTSC/HDTV sets in a retail storelike environment. Secondary source research This would rely mainly on data from commercial marketing research firms. The marketing department could analyze all existing data about consumer adoption of recent consumer electronics products (color TVs, videocassette recorders, camcorders, and projection TVs). They could use EIA data and various syndicated marketing research data to develop models of product adoption curves and investigate the rate of adoption, taking product quality, product pricing, and product distribution into account. The main purpose would be to estimate the size and growth rate of the HDTV industry in various scenarios. The estimated cost of such a study was around $100,000; it could be done immediately. HDTV innovators and qualitative research on early adoption This exploratory research would consist of a series of focus groups with innovators and early adopters of consumer electronic products (VCRs, projection TVs, camcorders). Zenith would identify these consumers demographically and psychographically. By investigating expectations of product, pricing, promotion, and placement, it could explore what benefits such consumers expected from an HDTV, what they were willing to pay for it, where and how they would seek information about it, and the type of outlets they would expect to find it in. This information could be used when first developing marketing-mix strategies and as a basis for future quantitative research. The estimated costs were about $50,000-$70,000; the study could be done next year. HDTV/NTSC-TV preference test Another proposal was a conjoint analysis with 1,000 respondents who viewed actual working models of HDTV (when ready) and NTSC-TV monitors of comparable screen sizes, aspect ratios, and viewing materials under various pricing scenarios. This would help determine the degree of consumer preference for HDTV by investigating price sensitivity among prospective buyers to determine optimal pricing and volume levels. The estimated costs were about $75,000, which did not include the cost of developing the programs to be viewed. This study could only be done when HDTV models were ready, which would be around 1992 at the earliest.



Zenith: Marketing Research for High Definition Television (HDTV)

HDTV consumer awareness/”halo effect” survey A quantitative survey could investigate the state of consumer awareness of HDTV after introduction. This study would also assess HDTV’s impact on overall brand image, brand awareness, and purchase consideration rates of non-HDTV products among various demographic and psychographic consumer segments. The estimated cost was about $100,000, and the survey could be done as early as possible, perhaps in 1994 or 1995. * * * * * Bruce Huber knew that there was uncertainty about when HDTV sets would make it to the retail shelf and that it may be too early to do any marketing research study. Nevertheless a decision had to be made whether the Aspect Ratio Conjoint Study should be done and, if so, whether it needed any modification. He also wondered whether other marketing research studies would be more useful than this one. Huber knew that not only did Pearlman want a decision on the type and nature of marketing research study to conduct, he also wanted forecasts of demand from 1992 to 2000 under various scenarios. He knew that historical data on past consumer electronics innovations (such as TVs, color TVs, or VCRs) could be used to forecast the growth of HDTV by analogy. He would have to estimate historical growth rates and make assumptions about the similarity of HDTV growth to that of past innovations. For example, even if he assumed that HDTV would be perceived as revolutionary as color TV, would consumers buy it as an additional item or as a replacement item? A variety of demand forecasts were possible depending upon his assumptions about which scenario might unfold regarding HDTV development and what consumer responses and buying behavior might be. He wondered which scenario was most likely, and how he should update his current arbitrary forecasts.




Exhibit 1
9”–12” 45,672 $286 $277 $340 $600 $570 –— $808 $2,861 $533 515,520 540,220 621,492 490,422 0 393,125 33,929 2,640,380 13” –14” 15” –19” 20” –24” 25” 26” 27” –29” 30”+ Total

1989 Zenith TV Sales to Dealers by Screen Size

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