To avoid DTV mess


..create a mess. That appears to be the name of the game, as DMAs go into patchwork quilt mode. Some are getting set to go analog/digital until June or at least past 2/17/09, while others get set to go all digital on the original deadline day, or mix and match dual stream and digital-only approaches. Between 2/17/09 and 6/12/09, the operative advice is to check your local listings.

In South Dakota, some stations have already turned off the analog – one such station commented that almost all viewers were properly equipped, one way or another, and most with problems merely needed to hit the scan button on their converter box – and noted that only one lonely viewer was caught by surprise. According the the Rapid City Journal, broadcasters throughout the state teleconferenced last week under the auspices of the South Dakota Broadcasters Association to sort through their options.

The Utah Broadcasters Association says that all but one commercial station in the state will keep side-by-side going until June, with the exception being a CW affiliate – its lower income and the fact that it is not a primary source of emergency information led to that decision.

In New Orleans, at least one station is already all digital – and according to its GM, there were minimal consumer problems. At least one will run side-by-side operations until June and others are either turning off analog on the February date or are undecided.

One group, owned my multimedia company Meredith Communications, is joining a squadron of network O&Os and other big groups in pledging to run side-by-side operations all the way to 6/12/09. Paul Karpowicz, President of the Meredith Broadcasting Group, said, “We believe that delaying our transition will help avoid consumer confusion and ensure that our viewers have ample time to prepare.” Meredith has stations in Atlanta, Phoenix, Portland OR, Hartford-New Haven, Nashville, Kansas City, Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson-Asheville, Flint-Saginaw, Las Vegas, NV; Springfield, MA.

RBR/TVBR observation: All we can say is it’s going to be an interesting four months. The next thing to watch for is just how many stations the FCC allows to do an early analog switch-off. If a substantial number get permission, we’ll at least gain additional knowledge about the types of problems that the transition will spawn, and develop some strategies for dealing with them.