NAB proposes syllabus for NC experiment


The powers that be are looking to earn an advanced degree in DTV transitioning, and they’re matriculating in Wilmington NC. And any old college student knows that it’s easier to focus when a comprehensive course outline is laid out in advance. The NAB has just such an outline – a five-pronged outline at that, and has volunteered to take a lead role in three of them. Theprogram is outlined by NAB President/CEO David Rehr in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin cc’d to the other commissioners. The five areas of study are: * Public awareness specifically on 9/8/08, a survey the NAB will conduct; * an “intercept survey,” mimicking an exit poll and also conducted by the NAB, to learn how citizens made themselves ready for the conversion; * a broadcaster survey,  NAB’s final contribution, to learn about hurdles and steps to overcome them; * extensive data collection by the FCC Call Center – since analog won’t actually go away on 9/8/08 but will be used to explain to viewers why their broadcast station is no longer at the location they tuned in, the FCC can publish the appropriate phone number and gather all types of information; and * information from cable and satellite distributors detailing their own hurdles and fixes.

Here is Rehr’s letter in its entirety:

Dear Chairman Martin:

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) shares your goal of maximizing the information gleaned from the digital television (DTV) transition test in the Wilmington, N.C., designated market area (DMA) on September 8, 2008. In response to a request from your staff, NAB has developed specific monitoring efforts that we believe will yield the most meaningful information from the Wilmington experiment.

Our staff has identified five essential measurement tools, which we believe will effectively capture information needed from this experiment to apply to nationwide outreach efforts in advance of the February 17, 2009, cut-off of analog broadcasting by full-power television broadcasters. NAB is volunteering to take the lead on three of these five elements. We also suggest that the FCC utilize data collection from its own Call Center, as well as collect information about the experiences of cable and satellite subscribers to further evaluation efforts.
The specific measurement tools proposed are:

1. An Awareness Survey – NAB will conduct an awareness survey on September 8, the day of the test, to determine the number of viewers who are aware of the digital switch and whether they have taken action.

2.  Intercept Surveys – NAB will conduct intercept surveys (similar to voter exit polls) on the afternoon and evening of September 8 to interview Wilmington DMA citizens about:

a. Whether they successfully upgraded to receive digital television signals; 

b. Where they learned about the DTV switch; 

c. How easy or difficult it was to upgrade; 

d. How they chose to upgrade; 

e. How easy or difficult it was to use the government converter box coupon program; 

f. Whether they encountered technical difficulties; and

g. What their perception was of the coordination between federal, state and local agencies outreach initiatives.

3. Broadcaster Surveys – NAB will conduct a broadcaster survey to poll stations on any problems, solutions, viewer calls and complaints they received.

4. FCC Call Center Data Collection – As stations will not be “switching off” but instead running an information slate on the analog signal, they can direct viewers who failed to upgrade to the FCC Call Center. Based on information gleaned from the calls, we strongly urge the FCC to determine, categorize and tabulate reasons why viewers did not upgrade and share that information with broadcasters, cable and satellite partners. We suggest categories such as:

a. They waited too long to buy or set up a digital set or a converter box

b. A coupon did not arrive in time

c. The retail stores were out of converter boxes

d. Setting up converter boxes was too difficult

e. They did not think the stations they watch would switch to digital

f. They were not aware of the switch to DTV

g. They were unaware of the correct transition date

h. They forgot to upgrade

i. They were out of town or too busy or knew they could do it later

j. They relied on another member of their household to upgrade

k. They needed help to upgrade and were unable to attain assistance

l. Their converter box “didn’t work”

m. Their antenna didn’t work or they have no antenna or their antenna wasn’t connected

n. They didn’t understand the instructions for the digital set or the converter box

o. They thought all their sets were hooked up to cable or satellite

p. They were waiting for cable or satellite installation

q. Other

5. Cable and Satellite Subscriber Reports – Cable and satellite companies should share information about their subscribers’ experiences related to the Wilmington experiment. Information about the number and type of subscriber problems reported to these companies will be very valuable as we approach the February 2009 switch.

While the opportunity exists to mine helpful data from this experiment that can assist us as we prepare for the national switch to digital, we should also acknowledge that there are some potential hurdles. According to research conducted by SmithGeiger at the behest of NAB, 66 percent of viewers in the Wilmington DMA watch some programming originating from another DMA. This has the potential to confuse Wilmington viewers who may see news or spots regarding a national transition date that is different than their own. Additionally, the local public station will also continue to air national messages with the February 17, 2009, date.

The research also showed that more Wilmington viewers currently believe the transition will occur in February 2009 as opposed to September 2008. This is likely due to the fact that the experiment had only recently been announced when the survey was conducted. Nonetheless, evaluating the results in Wilmington must take these factors into account.

NAB is prepared to do all it can to aid in a smooth transition in the Wilmington DTV transition experiment, and we look forward to a meaningful evaluation of the results. NAB will work with Wilmington broadcasters to anticipate and prepare for any challenges, as well as with the FCC and other partners to refine and execute testing measures to evaluate these findings.

Please let me know if there is anything else NAB can provide to the FCC to help make the Wilmington experiment valuable.

Best wishes.


David K. Rehr