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Broadcasters Prepare For DTV Transition

The transition from analog to digital television (DTV) represents the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced.

But many Americans remain completely unaware of the federally-mandated DTV transition, which will be completed on Feb.17, 2009, when all full-power television stations go completely digital.

The benefits of digital television are undeniable: dramatically clearer pictures and sound quality, more programming choices through multicasting, efficiency that will open up space in the airwaves for other uses, and the capability to deliver high-definition programs.

Local television stations have spent more than $5 billion updating their equipment and infrastructure for the digital transition, and today more than 92 percent of full-power television stations in the United States are already broadcasting in digital alongside their analog broadcasts. But only half of consumers nationwide know anything about the February 2009 transition.

Millions of households will be affected by the switch to digital broadcasting. There are 19.6 million households that rely exclusively on free over-the-air broadcasts, and an additional 14.9 million with secondary over-the-air sets in their bedrooms or kitchens. Overall, about 69 million television sets will be affected by the transition. Those who subscribe to cable, satellite or telephone company television services should contact their provider to determine whether their service will be affected.

Broadcasters are taking the lead to educate consumers about this exciting revolution in television. Earlier this year, broadcasters announced a nearly $700 million campaign led by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) that is designed to ensure that no viewer loses access to free broadcast programming in 2009 when television stations switch to all-digital broadcasting. The multiplatform, multifaceted campaign includes a rich variety of on-air, online and grassroots initiatives, as well as earned media and advertising components.

In the coming year, broadcast networks and television stations nationwide will continue to reach viewers through these various initiatives, which include:

  • “DTV Action” television spots;
  • crawls and news tickers during programming;
  • half-hour educational programs about DTV;
  • a 100-day countdown to the February 17, 2009, DTV deadline;
  • public relations elements, including earned media coverage in newspapers and online;
  • a DTV Road Show that will visit 600 locations nationwide;
  • a DTV Speakers Bureau that will reach one million consumers; and
  • online banner ads on TV station Web sites.

The combined elements of the industry’s DTV campaign will reach nearly all television viewers and generate 98 billion audience impressions during the course of the campaign, which will run through Feb. 17, 2009.

To make sure consumers are fully prepared for the transition to digital, it is critical that the consumer electronics industry also play a leading role in consumer education. Consumers often look to their local retailers as the go-to source for information on the latest trends within the industry. Consumer electronic retailers can help consumers learn what they need to know about the transition by taking the following actions:

  • placing point-of-purchase displays throughout the television and entertainment sections, urging consumers to learn more about the DTV transition;
  • displaying federal government coupon program brochures in the converter box and digital television aisles in stores;
  • printing information about the transition on the bottom of customer receipts; and
  • distributing handouts on the transition to customers at checkout counters.

The digital television transition is coming, and it means a better quality television experience for those who are prepared. But consumers who don’t take the steps to receive a digital signal risk losing their free television programming. To make sure this doesn’t happen, broadcasters and the consumer electronics community must work together.

For more information about the DTV transition, visit, the official Web site of the NAB’s digital television (DTV) transition campaign, or contact Shermaze Ingram at [email protected].

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