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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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2008 @ 7:38pm

    from the "makes-sense dept?" I already went out and bought a TV last summer, because there was hype then that everyone would lose their TV signal if they didn't switch. How about the "it's a little late for that dept?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Six Channel Ryan, 17 Dec 2008 @ 7:50pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    nipsey russell, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:02pm

    true dat

    comcast told someone in our neighborhood (philadelphia) that they had to upgrade to digital because of the digital transition. and this was about a year ago. liars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Jerk, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:13pm


    how about from the "you shouldve done your research dept". it's YOUR fault you went and bought a new TV. Research before you buy. Don't trust everything the best-buy kid says. most of the time they have no idea what they are talking about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    David Jones, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:14pm


    Now when are they going to get the SDV adapters out to Tivo owners so that they can once again see the channels that the cable companies took away from them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:16pm


    Look if you are too stupid to get the details before going and buying a TV.... I have no pity for you

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    eskayp, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:24pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Nick, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:47pm


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Nick, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:49pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Nick, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:53pm

    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 :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Gome, 17 Dec 2008 @ 8:53pm

    Comcast has been running ads saying that its customers don't have to do anything. Maybe the technicians or customer service reps try to sway people to get Digital cable service?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Brian, 17 Dec 2008 @ 9:03pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Tim, 17 Dec 2008 @ 10:21pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Tim, 17 Dec 2008 @ 10:24pm

    Re: CableOne

    You complained to the FCC that your no longer being provided a service you do not pay for.(Non encrypted HD is a side effect of how they are broadcast over the coax) How did that go? Bahh, serves you right for buying anything Vista too. Hah

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Tim, 17 Dec 2008 @ 10:29pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Tim, 17 Dec 2008 @ 10:33pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2008 @ 5:10am

    Re: Re: and another thing....

    You get the guide from the TV GUIDE channel. ;)

    I get "free" basic cable as a side effect of having broadband service through them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 18 Dec 2008 @ 5:30am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Matt C., 18 Dec 2008 @ 6:00am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2008 @ 6:16am

    Deceptive advertising is redundant.
    Similar to creative accounting

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Really?, 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:43am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous, 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: comcast

    You need either a new TV with a digital tuner OR you need new equipment, e.g. a digital converter box for an analog TV to work. If you have cable - you don't need anything else.

    Of course they're clarifying things in their favor. It's an advertisement, not a PSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    AC, 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:53am


    How about all of the info has been very clearly stated for several years now and if you can get to this website you should have easily figured this out

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2008 @ 9:36am

    i got rid of my tv, there is nothing on worth watching anyways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2008 @ 9:53am

    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:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    DS, 18 Dec 2008 @ 10:04am


    OP's "it's a little late for that dept" should have been started up many, many, many, years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    From the middle of nowhere, 18 Dec 2008 @ 10:37am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2008 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re:

    People make mistakes. If they are being fed misleading information, it is easier to make a mistake. Too bad the folks generating the falsehoods get the benefit and the consumer who is being confused gets the bill.

    As for stupid, I bet the mistakes you made and never realized have cost you a bundle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Ian Lamont, 18 Dec 2008 @ 12:14pm

    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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    another mike, 18 Dec 2008 @ 12:45pm

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 18 Dec 2008 @ 2:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 18 Dec 2008 @ 2:51pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Walter Neary, 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:30pm


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    steve, 12 Jan 2009 @ 8:48pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    jeremyromero, 30 Jan 2009 @ 10:56pm

    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!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    jeremyromero, 3 Mar 2009 @ 7:37pm

    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!!!!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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