Cable Companies Hold Off On Digital Conversion To Avoid Confusion (And Potential Lawsuits)

from the makes-sense dept

There’s tremendous confusion out there about February’s required switch for broadcast TV from analog to digital. For example, an awful lot of people who have cable or satellite TV don’t realize that this conversion basically has no impact on them. It’s only for over-the-air TV (you know, the kind you used rabbit ear antennas for). Many assume, incorrectly, that it has something to do with cable TV’s “digital TV” or (even less related) needing to get HDTV. Digital TV and HDTV are two separate things. Yet, there has been some accusations that cable companies are taking advantage of this confusion to get people to upgrade, even if they don’t need to. In response to such criticism, cable TV operators have now all agreed to put their own digital conversion plans on hold until after the over-the-air conversion is complete, to avoid “complexity.” It might also help them avoid lawsuits for misleading consumers…

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Comments on “Cable Companies Hold Off On Digital Conversion To Avoid Confusion (And Potential Lawsuits)”

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Six Channel Ryan says:

In my experience, the “digital tv transition” is often referred to as the DTV transition. To the average consumer, DTV sounds awfully similar to HDTV, so I’m not surprised they are confused. The average person isn’t concerned with how they “get” their television signal, they only care that they can watch their shows. To further complicate things, cable companies are taking advantage, the GeekSquad and their high school diplomas only know how to up-sell, and should get an award for the worst website of 2008.

Tim says:

Re: true dat

Not liars, stupid. The people who are selling the product rarly have any idea WHAT there are actually selling. And some people DO need to get digital, with the move from analog to digital, alot of cable companies are moving analog to the digital format to make room for bandwidth, which means alot of old people calling up and asking “Where did TCM go?” And instead of saying “well mam were changing the QAm modulation on our networks to increase HD capability and looking to digital simucast only the lowest costing channels” guess what they say.

eskayp says:

CableOne and digital transition

CableOne has been showing ads for over a month now telling all customers that they have to do nothing but keep on watching TV like they always have done.
Customers with older sets will notice no difference, nor will they have to change or add anything to their sets.
How long that will continue remains to be seen.

Nick says:


The only trouble is that now CableOne has scrambled what few HDTV channels they did provide unencrypted over-the-wire! Goodbye TNT-HD, TBS-HD, Universal HD, Discovery HD Theater, National Geographic HD, A&E HD, ESPN, and ESPN2!

Now I’ve got a shiny Windows Vista Media Center box with four tuners in it… for my locals? Fail. I complained to the FCC.

In my opinion they should be required to provide the HD version of any channel in their standard unencrypted lineup over-the-wire unscrambled.

Nick says:

Back on topic...

That last post was a bit off topic. As far as the DTV transition goes, while DTV doesn’t technically have anything to do with HDTV, it provides the impetus for the broadcasters to adopt HDTV as their new standard format. If you already have to have 90% of the equipment, why not just go the rest of the way? You already made the majority of the investment. All of our locals DTV stations are doing the news in HD, and any syndicated content available in HD they broadcast as such.

Nick says:

and another thing....

I sure wish the cable companies would get off the “you have to use our box” crap. It would be nice if cable went back to being cable, and I could just plug the wire in to any device I wanted – like straight in to my TV, or into my Windows Media Center box. They’re so paranoid about people ripping off their content, that they’re making it almost impossible for legitimate consumers like me to actually consume the product ๐Ÿ™

Tim says:

Re: and another thing....

Paranoid? Do you have any idea how many people use cable service they are not paying for? Notice I don’t use the word steal, because many times its by fault of the company. And besides that, how you going to get a guide without a reciever? Not to mention the legacy support they would have to put in place each time we do a update.

Brian says:

Re: comcast

Listen closely to Comcast’s commercials though – there’s some deception there as well. Their commercial state something to the effect of, “If you have over the air television, you have some decisions to make…but with Comcast, you don’t have to buy a new TV or new equipment – you’re set,” implying ever so slightly that over the air customers will need a new TV. It’s subtle, but they’re definitely “clarifying” things in their favor.

Tim says:

Re: Re: comcast

And even with that, there is probably going to be millions of people who call up on the date of the cross over claiming that they were told since they have cable in their house, their 27 year old TV in the den with the ears should work. When pass judgment on a cable company, try to few every commercial through the eyes of your most technologically ignorant family member.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: comcast

Time-Warner has been running a deceptive add that implies that you need to get cable to keep your TV working. They never mention that you could buy a converter box!!!

While, I agree that companies have a right to advertise and can present their product advantageously. However, in this case, failing to mention the alternative of buying a converter box is going over-the-edge.

Now, I wonder if Mike will get a copyright take down notice for “stealing” Time-Warner’s by-line “There’s tremendous confusion out there about February’s required switch for broadcast TV from analog to digital.” Time-Warner of course has not actually helped the consumer understand this supposed “confusion”. Just buy from us, don’t think.

Really? says:

Re: Re: Re: comcast

You really think advertisers should be forced to mention alternatives – e.g. competitors?

I can just see the ad now. Drink Coke – or Pepsi or the store brand, but Drink Coke!

Eat at McDonalds, or BurgerKing or Wendys, but Please go to McD’s.

The issue is that the ads are lies, not that they’re “unfair.” The fact is YOU DON’T need digital cable to get digital TV, or even HDTV, but they say you you have to have cable to get TV.

It’s one thing to say “The DTV transition is a great time to subscribe” versus “You risk losing your TV channels if you don’t switch to cable.”

Bottom line – be an educated consumer.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 comcast

There is a distinction. It is a government mandate that the analog signal expire. Companies do run “public service” announcements, the cable companies can demonstrate that they are being good citizens by informing their customers of all options. Wouldn’t you feel better about your service provider if they actually respected the customer.

Using FUD to scare your customers is an absurdity. Haven’t we had enough of companies greedily screwing their customers and investors so self serving managers can extract exorbitant pay. Lets restore a semblance of ethics in corporate America.

Matt C. says:

Comcast's Deceptive Practices

Recently, Comcast has removed several channels from the standard package (in the Baltimore area). Initially when I called to inquire about the missing channels, Comcast informed me it was because of the “over-the-air conversion” and that a digital box was needed.

After explaining to the representative that the “over-the-air conversion” does not affect any cable customers, the representative informed me that I had to upgrade to a digital package because of their “digital conversion”.

Comcast is also running a commercial, locally, about their “digital conversion” which many people, without listening closely and understanding the content, will mistake it as the “over-the-conversion” and unnecessarily upgrade to a more expensive service.

Overall, these are very deceptive practices and it’s a shame that there isn’t more customer protection from these predatory companies.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Comcast's Deceptive Practices

The real shame is that corporate managers appear to view their customers as revenue units to be squeezed without mercy. We are in an financial meltdown in this country because of the greed of the corporate executives.

While I agree that we need more customer protection, the real shame is that there are few calls for corporations to improve their ethical behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

hmmm, now I’m really confused. There’s a story up here in Seattle about Comcast cable. If you have the bottom tier cable you currently get channels 2-80 with no converter box needed at all, just the cable from the wall to your TV.

Now Comcast itself is reporting that after the transition, you will no longer be able to get the same channels. People will still be able to get channels 2-30 with no box, but anything over 30 will require a converter box. Supposedly comcast will offer customers up to 3 boxes free if they are in this situation, but this already adds to a confusing situation.

Read this article, which makes it about as clear as mud:

Walter Neary (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hi Anon, I work at Comcast, and I know the timing is confusing and am sorry about that. What you read about in the Seattle P-I won’t be happening for a period of time, and certainly not before Feb. 17. We’ll be communicating directly with customers at least a couple months in advance before they need the equipment for the channels you were talking about. We’re moving those particular analog channels to digital to make more room for popular things like HD and higher Internet speeds and who-knows-what the telecom future will bring. Customers will get a lot of notice as it’s obviously in Comcast’s best interest to get the equipment to people so they continue to enjoy both the existing channels and the new services.

From the middle of nowhere says:

lots of misinformation

I live in a rural area that is serviced with low power translators with signals from large metro areas hundreds of miles away. The farmers and ranchers here are inundated with the conversion ads on network TV and the Dish company sales people are stopping by and telling them that they “won’t get no TV” if they don’t drop their $$ now. BS!! … The digital conversion does not affect low power stations or translators. Their 1978 console RCA will work just as it did before —- even after Valentines day.
The FCC doesn’t know when they are going to force the conversion on the thousands of low power translators across the states.

You can say “Caveat emptor” (cave canem?)but these people are focused on other things and rely on the “experts” to be honest. Yet again our rural population are not served as the balance of the population.

Ian Lamont (user link) says:

A tale of two HDTV households

Thanks to the ubiquity of cable and satellite TV, I think a lot of people overlook the many benefits of the DTV broadcast transition.

I helped my parents get an HDTV a few months ago, which we hooked up to their existing Comcast cable box. Great picture, but it’s not HD, and many HD channels are blocked. They can upgrade the box, for a fee, of course.

We bought an HDTV last week. We’ve never had cable, so I just plugged in the old rabbit ears into the back of the Samsung, and voila! — HD on PBS and the network affiliates, plus multicasting on many of the UHF stations. We had 9 channels with our analog TV, but now receive 16. You can read about it here:

Over-the-air digital TV brings more channels, but beware the “cliff effect”

another mike says:

I indexed all my favorite shows and found them all online. So I ditched my cable tv subscription and put the money to the next higher tier of high-speed internet service. Linux (MythTV) DVR/media browser, Netflix, Hulu or the networks’ own sites, BitTorrent. All the shows and movies I had before, but better!

I had actually planned to ditch cable for satellite, but I save over $50 a month ditching them both.

Now if I could just get the internet without my ISP…

steve says:

Comcast and moving analog channels

spoke to a Comcast rep today, and what you aren’t mentioning is after Comcast moves the channels if your are an expanded basic subscriber, you will no longer get an HD channels without paying an additional fee. I currently get local HD feeds on my digital TV. Isn’t part of this “move” a way to require additional equipment, including decoders or WHATEVER you want to call them, in order to charge a fee to get ANY HD?

jeremyromero says:

need new channel linup,keeep my channels,get rid of jazz and tvtv

CAN I HAVE MORE CHANNELS IF I HAVE BOTH THE CABLE BOX AND DIGITAL TRANSITION,WOULD I HAVE MORE CHANNELS,I MOSS HOCKEY SEASON,BUT I MISS FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN,IS COMING BACK OR IS WRESTLING DEAD,IN NAMPA WE GET ECW AND RAW.BUT I SVARED IT WILL DISAPPEAR,OH BY THE WAY CABLE ONE GOT RID OF BBC-BRITISH NEWS AND G4TV,WHY? I GOT A IDEA GET RID OF JAZZ CHANNEL-BETTV,YA IT SUCKS!!!!!!we the people are not happy cable one fix this,i got shotime,cinemax,hbo,i love it,but i wish new movies,need new owners,i love sports,media,when im not working!!!i keep my espn,movies,videogame channels,etc,but jazz channel sucks,fix this i want all the best channels,wgm too,maybe so i can watch living color0i miss that!!!! get rid of tvtv channel too,who watch that!!!

jeremyromero says:

bet-tv suck,we want hockey channel!!!!!

i got better idea how about either cwe cant have a unlock channels so we can see it,or tell fcv to back off,but i for one want my bbc,hockey channel,et-get rid of jazz channel,is it really that great,okay g4tv,have videogame,cinema tech,cheat incase you don’t have a computer,too bad the cut screesaver program moring,but i like,cpos,man show,x-play,get rid of rest clean up channel,!!!i want all my channels,but jazz-bet-tv,come it sucks,i want a new cable one lin-up,i being truthful,now for funny can we get our channel back that were changed by them and get them back addding new digital trantion box,yeah i heard a delay on ditital thing!!!!!!!!!!

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