Most Americans are unaware of Digital TV transition: Study

MUMBAI: The majority of US households that receive their television signals over the air are still unaware of the digital TV transition.

This is despite the fact that an estimated 22 million over-the-air homes need to make some kind of digital decision by 12 February, 2009, according to a Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) survey.

The bulk of the survey participants—61 per cent—had no idea that the DTV transition was taking place. 10 per cent said they had limited awareness, while 25 per cent said they were somewhat aware or very aware. While some respondents were aware of the digital transition, 53 per cent had no idea when analogue transmissions were scheduled to be turned off.

In order for the DTV transition to be successful, consumers must be well-informed and primed to adapt successfully to the new technology. This cannot occur unless there is a comprehensive, coordinated national consumer outreach effort. Therefore, APTS is urging Congress to designate targeted funding for consumer outreach on the switch from analog to digital. During APTS Capitol Hill Day 2007 from 13-14 February more than 200 executives and volunteer board members of local Public Television stations are scheduled to ask Congress to recognise Public Television’s unique outreach ability in the community and provide funding for those efforts.

APTS president and CEO John Lawson said, There are more than 21 million US households that get their TV exclusively free and over the air, and we know these homes are heavy viewers of Public Television. That puts us, working with our partners, in a strong position to provide information about the digital transition to the people who need it most.”

APTS is spearheading a coalition of trade and interest groups to compete for the $5 million Congress set aside for consumer education in last year’s DTV transition bill. The diverse group includes the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Consumer Electronics Association, American Library Association and Women Involved in Farm Economics. In addition, APTS is now a part of the DTV Transition Coalition, a separate but related effort led by the National Association of Broadcasters.

The need for vigorous outreach efforts is evident when looking at analog consumers’ attitudes and awareness toward their options for digital TV reception after the transition. Roughly 45 per cent of respondents to APTS’ survey said they will either “do nothing” or “don’t know” what option they will take to obtain digital signals. 19 per cent will purchase a converter box, 17 per cent are likely to sign up for cable TV service, and nine per cent will sign up for satellite TV. Another nine per cent indicated they would buy a digital television set so that they can continue to receive over-the-air broadcasts.

The survey also found that at least 38 per cent of analog households would “definitely not” or “probably not” select a particular video service provider if they didn’t offer Public Television channels after the DTV transition. This suggests that the lack of Public Television offerings by video providers will cause a serious barrier to these analog households in choosing cable or satellite to receive digital television.

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