How The Digital TV Transition Will Accidentally Help HDTV Sales

from the customer-confusion dept

There's been a huge amount of confusion concerning the February 2009 transition from analog over-the-air TV to digital over-the-air TV, but one of the big points of confusion is the false assumption by many that this has something to do with HDTV. It doesn't. It's just about the television content that's available freely over the air -- as opposed to via cable or satellite TV. For anyone who is a subscriber to cable or satellite (i.e., the majority of Americans) the transition basically means nothing. Yet, thanks to years of FUD from folks resisting the transition (mainly the TV broadcasters who wanted to keep their spectrum) many people are quite confused about what this means. Some new studies have looked at public readiness for the switch, and while most of the headlines focus on the fact that about half of those impacted are unready for the shift, what may be much more interesting is a tidbit not found in most of the coverage, but tucked into the Washington Post coverage:
About 30 percent of the respondents indicated they had plans to ready themselves for the transition, even though they do not have to do anything to maintain service.
In other words, an awful lot of people who already have a digitally enabled TV, cable service or satellite service somehow think they need to upgrade to keep service after February. Obviously, they're confused, and it would be a good guess to assume the root of at least a significant percentage of that confusion is that idea that this has something to do with HDTV. So, it sounds like a large group of cable or satellite TV subscribers are planning to upgrade to HDTV, not because they want to, but because they incorrectly think they need to to keep getting TV after February of next year. HDTV providers must be thrilled.

As for the percentage of folks who will be impacted and haven't done anything about it yet, that doesn't seem too troublesome. After all, there's still seven or eight months to get it done, and people sure do like to procrastinate. What's more troubling, perhaps, is the fact that the $40 coupons for converter boxes that are being sent out to those who request them expire after 90 days. Why? No one seems to have any clue, and its leading to many of these coupons expiring before people have a chance to redeem them.

Filed Under: confusion, digital tv, fcc, hdtv, spectrum


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  1. identicon
    Ziggy, 11 Jun 2008 @ 12:59pm

    TV Stations aren't helping.

    I recently noticed that all of my local affiliate stations (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX) all now have a CNN-style ticker thing that runs on the top of the screen for a few minutes every hour or so that warns about the Feb '09 switchover, and with a 800 to call with questions.

    The annoying thing is that they broadcast it ON EVERY TYPE OF FEED. My parents get the channel via the local cable company. They are completely unaffected by the switch over. It's there. I get the local feed in SD via Dish Network, it's there too. I can also pick up their DTV SD and full DTV 720p or 1080i HD signals via OTA antenna, it's there too. And lastly, if I reconfigure my TV to pick up analog signals, it's on their 'old' analog broadcast as well - the only signal that's actually going to dissapear.

    The fact is that there is a lot of mis-information out there. It doesn't help that the 'average Joe' customer doesn't understand the difference between DTV and HDTV. Let alone 480i vs 480p vs 720p vs 1080i vs 1080p. Consumers as a group are stupid. But there are plenty of resources out there for people that need help. They just have to put forth the mental effort to do it.

    My local Radio Shack sells a wide variety of both inside and outside antennas, as well as more esoteric devices such as antenna amps and pre-amps and signal meters. They're not the best quality, but they are there. Likewise, my local Best Buy has all of their HDTV's actually hooked up to an OTA antenna, and encourage people to flip through the channels and compare SD vs HD via OTA. Funny, the last time I was there and paid attention to their HDTV infomercial, it mentioned OTA broadcasts. I've overheard many conversations between confused customers and the 'blueshirts' about DTV and HDTV and what I've heard has always sounded at least mostly truthful. They also have a variety of OTA antennas to choose from.

    Though they do still push the 'necessary' $80 3' HDMI cables...

    The simple truth is that there are people that will be 'left behind' with the transition. You will read about it in the news. I'm sure we'll see it sensationalized. But within a week they'll figure out what they need for DTV and get it taken care of. Life will go on.

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