MSTV counters DTV gap study


Marker researcher Centris has a study out that anticipates a glitch in waiting for the DTV transition. It says there are over 40M non-MVPD households and 117M non-MVPD-connected television sets, and many of these will be at risk for dropped service on 2/17/09. The at-risk homes are those on the fringe or beyond the main contour of broadcast television signals. Centris says 75% of all over-the-air homes rely on nothing more than a set-top rabbit ear antenna arrangement, and fears that will not be enough to guarantee continued service after the transition.

The Association of Maximum Service Television (MSTV) has responded, saying that Centris missed several points. First, it relied on "paper analysis" of coverage rather than signal strength measurement. Second, Centris applied that DTV service may be unavailable areas already served by the analog signal, which MSTV says is flat-out incorrect. Finally, MSTV points out that consumers in fringe areas are already aware of the need for special antenna arrangements to pick signals off the air, and what they have for analog reception should continue to be of service for digital as well.

The dispute moved to the halls of Congress this week, as the Centris study was referenced by Ed Markey (D-MA) while questioning FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Martin was convinced the FCC was as prepared for this as well as it can be, although it cannot account for possible reception of a television signal that is beyond its predicted contour. Centris disputed Martin, claiming that the types of problems it is predicting are being experienced right now in Great Britain. And so it goes.

TVBR/RBR observation: We have to believe that people in fringe reception areas are well aware of the challenges of picking up good broadcast signals. Providing television to such places is the reason cable service was invented in the first place. We are not engineers. We advise you to take this lack of expertise with a ton of salt, but that said, we suspect it is possible these areas will be among the harder hit when it comes to percentage of DTV lost-reception victims, but in the final analysis, that number will most likely be a relatively tiny percentage of the total viewing public. Perhaps a contingency fund could be set aside to deal with this problem, if it turns out to exist, if it helps fringe legislators sleep better.