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
    hegemon13, 11 Jun 2008 @ 11:13am

    Concur

    I would definately concur with this article. My Grandma hurriedly sent off for those coupons for each of her TVs and wanted me to show her where to buy tuner boxes. One of the TVs already has an ATSC tuner. All of them are hooked up to cable. So, she has no need. I have explained this several times, and she continues to ask about it.

    I think a lot of the confustion is in the terminology. Many products use the term "HD tuner" or "HDTV tuner" instead of "ATSC tuner" or "digital tuner." While it is possible to receive free OTA HD content, most digital broadcasts are 480i, so the term "HDTV tuner" is really a misnomer.

    I don't think many companies are outright lying, but do think that they are happy to let consumers continue in their confusion. They certainly are not training their salespeople properly.

    To play devil's advocate for Best Buy, they may not have included OTA HD in their video because it is still not available in all areas. Since they are a national company, they certainly sell in areas that are not yet broadcasting in digital, and to sell an HDTV on the concept of free HD where it is not available may lead to an awful lot of returns. Or, they just want to sell more satellite contracts.

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