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HDTV's turning Americans into couch potatoes

High-definition television, embraced by ESPN, is big with sports fans. But they're not the only ones watching more.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--The numbers are in, and it appears that high-definition television is getting Americans to spend more time glued to their TV than ever before.

Yay, says Bryan Burns, vice president of strategic planning and development at ESPN HD. HD popularity means better TV sales and more advertising, of course.

At a minimum, consumers seem to find high-definition TV a more compelling experience. In a survey conducted on behalf of ESPN, 22 percent of sports fans said they watched sporting events they would not have watched because they now have HDTV, while 22 percent of those who do not count themselves as sports fans reported that they watched more sports after going HD.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of viewers described as sports fans said they watched "significantly" more sports, while 44 percent said they watched somewhat more sports after getting HD. Sports fans, he added, spent an average of $2,400 on HDTV sets, while ordinary humans spent $1,525.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said whether a program is in HD influences what they watched.

Burns, who spoke at the Samsung Semiconductor Executive Summit here Wednesday, added that consumers spend a lot of time on ESPN radio and TV properties.

Self-described sports fans consume 1.43 hours of ESPN media a day. When only men who are self-described sports fans are taken into account, the number jumps to 2.08 hours a day.

By 2010, roughly 80 million HDTV sets will have been sold in America. That's a lot of people singing, "Are you ready for some football?"

ESPN has been one of the leaders in HD broadcasting. Back in 2002, the company was in the midst of switching from running its operations on standard analog video to digital broadcasting. Since it realized that it would have to upgrade to HD right afterward, it made both moves at once. Now, 95 percent of the programming that comes out of its Bristol, Conn., facility is in HD.