Cable Guys Gather in Monterey Bay – DTV Is The Buzz of The Day

July 30, 2007

Today the Independent Show kicks off in Monterey Bay. This is the American Cable Associations, ACA, yearly event. A crowd of about 800 professionals will gather to discuss the future for independent cable operators. My question is – what will the cable guys do to make the transition smooth for their subscribers and themselves? Will it be part of the Independent Show to present solutions?

The agenda doesn’t really target the DTV transition as such. But Mr. Matt Polka, CEO and President of ACA, says in an interview with Cable 360, that preparedness for the DTV transition will be one of the main themes in the panels. Mr. Polka also concludes that buzz among ACA members will be the DTV transition. His take is: “In sum, plan for the best, and be prepared to handle the worst”.

ACA members have a special situation in my view. They operate mostly in rural America. Areas were broadcast TV  prevails together with satellite. There is a larger portion of seniors still living in their houses. They belong to a group that generally have a harder time to adjust and understand the transition.

NAB will broadcast Crawls: text messages about the transition. They are a great way to reach viewers with OTA reception. There is one side effect: Crawls will reach cable viewers if the operator is using the signal from OTA. This will make cable viewers jump. The good thing is that they might ask themselves if they are affected, on the other they might think that they are affected.

But for cable operators the message should be the opposite: Stay were you are with your cable TV – you are not affected by the transition. Cable operators have many options and tools to use in the effort to bring information to their subscribers. (Also – to keep the subscriber is important) They should make use of them in sync with Nabs campaigns. Are they doing that today? Are they in meetings in DC about what message that is going to unite the stakeholders to get a clear understanding among the audience about the transition?

In rural parts of the country consumers are probably mixing different ways to receive TV. In the living room cable- or satellite TV, in the bedroom there is a TV maybe with rabbit ears. And people really want to view TV as they are used to. Cable operators will be loaded with questions from consumers.

Will they be prepared? And in what way will they prepare themselves? I wonder why they haven’t made space in the agenda during the ongoing conference; this is a perfect moment to start preparing for the transition – especially if you are a cable guy.

Anders Bjers

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NABs DTV Information Campaigns Outlined

July 28, 2007

NABs President and CEO David K. Rehr has in a letter to Senator Inouye, outlined NABs information campaigns to bring awareness and knowledge about the transition to consumers and stakeholders.

It is basically the same structure of the campaigns that were launched in Sweden and in the U.K.

Anders Bjers


Public DTV Information Campaigns to Start In December ´07

July 26, 2007

Today’s hearing in the U.S. Senate put some limelight on the event that will affect about 20 million U.S households. Good news is that NAB will launch public announcements airing in December, according to LA Times. Mainstream media reported from the hearing focusing on the deep concerns that Senators expressed today.

Reuters headlines its piece: Many in the dark about TV switch: U.S. lawmakers.

Fox News carries the story from AP headlined: Senators Worried About TV ‘Train Wreck’

The L.A Times business reporter Jim Puzzanghera write that Senators decries the present conditions among TV-viewers. The efforts that are made this far by the Government and Government agencies are to few and very late. Senators raised concerns that voters/ consumers would call them and not the stakeholders in the TV industry if the transition backfires.

Reactions in the blogosphere follows the same beat. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica writes about the problems seniors will face because of the transition. Since the group above 50 watches TV more than 5.5 hrs a day and their generally low understanding of the transition and converter boxes. Anderson writes that “you have the conditions for a perfect storm”. He also writes ads:”Disgruntled seniors are unlikely to storm Washington with torches and pitchforks, but they are a powerful voting bloc”.

Multichannel News reporter Ted Hearn, writes that the DTV transition scares Senator McCaskill (D-Mo). She finds the transition is already tomorrow by Governmental standards. And the Senator ads “There is no anger that comes close to the anger of an American who can’t get television.” writes Hearn.

NAB estimates that there are about 69 million analog TV-sets in U.S. households that can go dark on February 17, 2009. NTIAs converter box coupons will only suffice for 33.5 million converter boxes with the budget that are expected. NAB also estimates that 60% of consumers are not aware of the transition to DTV as of today. But even these figures varies among stakeholders.

I find it remarkable that the facts about TV viewers still are unclear. It is one thing if people know about the transition date as such. But the core challenge to manage is to make consumers understand what to do or if they are affected at all. For me this hearing is a benchmark for the status of the transition. I really don’t expect that politiceners will know the details of the transition. And I do really wonder what the politiceners can come up with to turnaround the present state of the transition.

In my view there is no one else better suited for the mission than the TV industry. They have the real ways and means to make the transition smooth and successful.

Their secret tool?

Anders Bjers


State of U.S DTV Transition – Confusing, Underfunded With Low Consumer Preparedness

July 26, 2007

Today’s hearing in the U.S Senate created a wave of concerns on the status of the U.S transition to digital TV. Again and again the panelists pointed out how underfunded the information efforts are in the U.S. Also compared to Germanys and the U.Ks transition campaigns. Today 22 Cent is now spent on each household for information about the transition. But no information campaigns are on the roll. In Sweden there was one dollar spent on each household on information.

Confusing and contradicting information is flourishing the U.S DTV transition today. Different definitions and terms are used by stakeholders. One example is that stakeholder’s isn´t using the word “converter box” to describe the equipment to be used with the analog TV set. Panelists warned that the confusion is high not only among poor and elderly but also among professionals. The elderly will be the hardest to reach and they are among the majority of analog TV users, according to a new study made by APTS. And there is still a confusion among officials about how many households that are really affected by the transition.

The Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) released a statement prior the hearing saying: “The time to act is now—before the digital transition devolves into digital disaster. We must work together to ensure that no citizen is left behind in the transition to digital television”.

The Chairman concluded the hearing by saying “I assure you that congress has heard your message, and we will do something about it”.

Anders Bjers


Follow Today´s Hearing in Senate About DTV Awareness

July 26, 2007

Beginning today at 10 A.M (EST) the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing about the preparedness of consumers for the DTV transition. The witnesses that will participate in the two panels are:

Panel 1.

Ms. Nelda Barnett
Member, Board of Directors
AARP
Mr. Alex Nogales
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Hispanic Media Coalition
Ms. Nancy Zirkin
Vice President/Director of Public Policy
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Panel 2.

The Honorable John Kneuer
Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Communications and Information
National Telecommunications Information Administration
Ms. Cathy Seidel
Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Federal Communications Commission

If you want to listen to the hearing you can do that at the C-span service Capitolhearings.

Anders Bjers


DTV Awareness – The Challenge to Tell the DTV Story

July 24, 2007

Have you ever thought about how much of our everyday life’s are about telling and sharing stories? How we share information, laughs, news and personal discoveries and downturns by telling them to our closest. This we do at work, at home, on the phone, online and everywhere else were we find the moment to have a chat and tell our stories. And off course we listen to our friends, familys and peers stories.

The other day I met with Mr. Mathias Gulbrandson, CEO of Storylab. We had a chat about storytelling. Watch the podcast from PodTech.net and find out more about the art of storytelling.

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/07/PID_011993/Podtech_Storylab.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/3674/once-upon-a-time &totalTime=213000&breadcrumb=7a9e3e1f1f4d429aafb211e7f4ddd379]

The U.S transition to digital TV is a great story unfolding. And I believe that much of the awareness will be built around the stories that people share among themselves. Can you imagine how much talk that will arise once the story is out among the general audience? When newspapers and mainstream media cover the transition for real, when ads and campaigns are on the roll everywhere, when people blog, write about and debate the transition as such. When retailers are bringing truckloads of converter boxes in stores and consumers have to make a choice on how to receive TV.

Living in the U.S. knowing how soon the transition to DTV is, with no converter boxes in stores, no information campaigns launched and almost no cover at all in media or anywhere else, I start thinking about how the situation was in Sweden a year before the first transition took place.

It was as silent in Sweden, as it is in the U.S. for the moment, until the day when the plan for the transition was released. Then media started to cover the transition. People started to write op eds in newspapers, asking why on earth TV (analog) as they new it had to change. The market understood that the transition would really take place. At the point when the first transition (Sept 19, 2005) took place in Sweden about 30 different converter box models where on the market. Today it´s more than a hundred.

The transition was a top story in national and local news media. That itself made one of the strongest impressions on the general audience. I strongly believe that the story about the transition carried by media will be a prime mover of the general audience to act upon the fact. A transition is in my view a hyper local event. Local media is one of the most important carriers of information about a transition and the different aspects involved for the consumer.

Many consumers affected by the first transition in Sweden didn´t act until after the actual transition had taken place. People didn´t really believe that the TV signals (analog) would be shut off. But they where. Retailers were just as busy as during a prolonged Christmas time. And the day after a transition every retailer had a constant flood of people in need of support. Six months prior a transition people would have a hard time getting help from a professional retailer or installation firm to install a converter box and/or antenna. (No one here in the U.S. is mentioning the fact that people will need assistance with installations and that will be a greater issue than financial support to buy a converter box).

Practical issues were often the prime subject of the talk and debates about the transition to DTV in Sweden. But that was after the first phase (out of five phases during two years time) of transitions was completed. Before that there was a very strong debate about why a transition should be done at all. The stories about the transition changed over time from Why to Who to When to How.

-Will the same logic play out here in the U.S?

One thing remains – who will tell the story about the transition in a way that makes it a good one? That makes people listen and take action – if they have to.

As we all know, a story told the right way can make a great difference.

Anders Bjers

P.S. I am among the positive believers that the U.S. transition to digital TV will be smooth. Knowing the power of media, the message and last but most important – the people. D.S.


New TiVo HD + DTV Transition = True

July 24, 2007

Yesterday TiVo released it´s new TiVo HD, a less pricy model with HD recording capabilities. And the TiVo HD will be able to convert digital broadcast signals to analog if you use an antenna. And instead of 20 hrs of recorded HD TV you can record up to 180 hrs in standard TV. And the pricetag? It is set for $299.99.

USA Today reports that by the end of 2007 as many as 36 percent of U.S households could have HDTV. Consumers want to view TV in HD. The new TiVo HD reaffirms that. But what about digital broadcast HD? If you know something about that please drop me a note. Consumers with a rooftop antenna will ask “what about me-will I get HDTV?” Consumers may think that the DTV transition will bring HDTV to everyone, but that isn´t the case.

Comments in the blogosphere about the new TiVo have focused on the low price, features and TiVo’s challenges to reach out to a broader audience of users. Bussinessweek view TiVo HD as a way to target mainstream consumers. Engadget HD has some points from TiVo’s VP, Jim Denney. John Murrel discuss the product at Goodmorning Silicon Valley, he writes that “…the machine it should have rolled out two or three years ago…”. Wilson Rothman at Gizmodo gives it a long review with pros and cons. And Alec Saunders blogs about some advices to TiVo. Such as using TiVo as a platform and to reach out to Canada’s TV-viewers!

However, I think the new TiVo might be a great buy for consumers affected by the transition. They get a box that converts the signals from digital to analog, a great deal of recording capability and an option to connect it with cable TV or use it with a broadband connection and download movies from Amazon’s Unbox service.
That is good if users change their mind about how they want to receive TV. I think the built in program guides looks great. Something you don´t have in today’s analog broadcasts.

I wrote recently about TiVo as an alternative to traditional converter boxes. No converter boxes with built in hard discs (DVR) have been released yet. They will arrive. The question is what the price tag will be and what kind of features they will carry. Will TiVo compete with them? The subscription fee will certainly be a downside for TiVo compared with a traditional DVR or for instance Apple TV.

Finally, will TiVo market themselves actively as a choice for consumers affected by the upcoming transition, since their market share is declining? Will the transition be a window of opportunity for TiVo?

Stay tuned for more…

Anders Bjers

PS TiVo´s challenges are also PR Firm Ruder Finn´s. The firm is TiVo´s new PR partner as of yesterday according to PR Week… DS