Many households still unready for DTV

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According to Nielsen, unready homes, which present the greatest cause for concern, are concentrated among Hispanic homes, Households with older viewers and Households in rural areas. DMAs that are the most ready for the upcoming change include: NY, Hartford, Boston West Palm and Philadelphia. The most “unready” DMA’s are: Portland, Minneapolis, Salt Lake, Houston and Albuquerque.


According to Nielsen Media Research, 17.3% of Hispanic homes have only unready sets versus 12.4% for Black and 11.7% for Asian homes.

Quick Facts about TV “readiness”, from Carat Programming:

Consumers have several options from which they can choose

1. They can keep their old “rabbit ear” TVs in which case a special converter box is required
2. Connect their TVs to a cable or satellite service (an analog TV connected to cable, satellite, or some other form of pay TV service does not require a special converter box).

3. Purchase a new TV with a digital tuner (An HDTV is nice, but not necessary).

Congress created the TV converter box coupon program for households wishing to continue to use their old analog TV sets (with an antenna) after the switchover to digital. This program allows U.S. TV Households to obtain up to two coupons worth 40 dollars each that can be applied toward the purchase of eligible converter boxes that will cost somewhere between 40 and 70 dollars at retail. According to the latest figures from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, about 5.3 million households have taken up the government on its offer of discount coupons. Approximately 10 million coupons have been requested since the program was implemented on January 1. Redemption of these vouchers however, is going far more slowly as consumers wait for manufacturers to roll out the converters and for major chains such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart to stock them. As of April 11 just about 280,000 coupons have been redeemed to date.

Carat Programming reports they don’t know how many of these “unready” homes will connect to cable or satellite TV, purchase the converters or upgrade their sets in time for when stations collectively make the big switch. In the worse case scenario, some will wind up having their sets go dark on transition day: “Clearly, there is a great need for public education in order to reach out to the groups most in need of having this information. While the government has a very informative website, chances are it is not accessible to a low-income elderly person who most likely has no internet access.”

To date the Federal government has spent just 5 million dollars on public outreach, not nearly enough money to get the word out to those who need it most. Over the coming year, a massive consumer education campaign-valued at 1 billion is being deployed by the cable and broadcasting industry. According to a recent NAB survey, about 79% of Americans are aware that TV “will change in some way”.