Digesting the digital transition


She points out the transition is unlikely to affect national ratings, but some local markets may be affected. Some Hispanic ratings may be affected. Initiative recommends alternate media choice for vulnerable areas and target audiences.

Initiative is using Nielsen’s “degree of preparedness” by market to construct a framework that will also include audience composition by age and ethnicity, and a full list of viable media alternatives. “By assessing individual client marketing objectives, we will be able to identify areas of vulnerability and offer our clients custom solutions for ensuring total coverage for any under-served segment,” says Finkel-Greene.

She tells TVBR: “There’s going to be a period of adjustment from days to weeks, no matter what. People have new devices, they will have to learn how to hook them up. Then, when you have everything hooked up, on the day of the conversion you will still have to re-scan everything with your remote control because the mapping will change for the channels. If you didn’t ‘get the memo’ on how to do this, you may be without television. There will be some panic–no mass hysteria–but mostly in certain geographic pockets of the US. There will be reception issues in some areas as well.”

She noted, for example, that Portland, OR still has 22.4% viewing over the air; most of the people still relying on analog/antenna reception are light television viewers and/or median household income at 32K or below. Still, many marketers will want to reach these folks.

As Nielsen reports the number of analog-only sets per market, Finkel-Greene will be focusing on those markets, saying “Who lives there?; Who advertises there?; Which of our clients are there?; How can we help them?; Is this your target?; Is this critical? Are you buying Hispanic media in any of these? Do you want to buy some insurance? Do you want to buy a little radio—make sure you’re covered? We don’t know how long it will be before they get their televisions. But on a national level, it won’t be a blip.”

TVBR observation: Indeed, there will be problems. Folks who currently view programming with a little snow in the picture on analog VHF are going to get no picture at all from that broadcaster—the UHF spectrum (where the DTV signals will migrate 2/17/09) is less forgiving than VHF and the signals don’t propagate as far as on VHF. With digital, the picture is either perfect or non-existent. You need a certain level of signal strength to keep a stable picture. That means many suburban living room TVs with rabbit ears (designed for VHF) are not going to get the same number of channels by just a converter box alone. They will need an amplified, high gain UHF antenna at least. What this will really do is force people to sign up for cable/satellite—or generate another boon for rooftop antenna installers.