U.S DTV Transition – A Giant Awakening

August 23, 2007

The past few weeks have been more active concerning the DTV transition here in the U.S than in a long time. News reports have been spurred by hearings in the senate, FCC activities and more websearches and mediafiles about digital TV.

There is a giant about to awaken in the US. And the giant are consumers today confused and still in the shade about the forthcoming transition. One thing that Sweden had to avoid was the elections in November 2006. To campaign about a DTV transition along with powerful political campaigns would be too hard. And among else, mixing DTV switches and elections isn’t great for politics if a transition should by any means backfire. Interestingly enough the U.S DTV transition will take place when the new President will have taken office in 2009. But much of the campaigns will roll during the election campaigns.

The U.S DTV transition lacks stickiness in media today. Om Malik, well known blogger at GigaOm out of Silicon Valley, writes today under headline: Do You Know DTV? He says: By now you all know that sometime next year analog television will be replaced by all-digital television broadcasts, a move that is likely to impact about 21 million viewers.” As we know, people in general don’t have much of a clue about the DTV transition. Commentators on the blog don’t bother much. As well as media in general. Even if Sanjay Talwani at TV Technology.com wrote a great story about consumers who wants to know more about the transition. Here is seven thoughts about how to make the transition more interesting.

What can NAB, the DTV coalition and the Government do to make the transition more sticky?

1. First, the U.S Government should stick with the low budget.

Why? Because money isn’t everything when it comes to information from the Government about DTV. I think monumental campaigns launched by the Goverment can make older people, in a greater extent affected, more suspicious about the transition. DTV might sound as something you can monitor. Keep the Government out of the transition, except in the means to bring out a basic campaign to work as a launchpad for everyone else. Let the stakeholders push the message, after all it is all about TV. The Government may monitor the transition and step in if it backfires, not be in the driver’s seat. And save taxpayers money. Let the motivated stakeholders step in and make the change. It is my belief that the U.S consumers work in a different way than U.K consumers. And the U.K have put in far to much money into DTV campaigns.


2. Coordinate the market and stakeholders.

The market and stakeholders then have to act. Experiences from Europe tells that official campaigns will have an impact but mostly the retailers, campaigns for converter boxes and media coverage will bring most of the knowledge to consumers. A coordinated unified DTV message can bring a monumental impact on consumers.

3. Focus on the transition as a step to simply update your television.

What do you get when you switch to DTV? No one knows that today I would say. No one talks about it either. Consumers will be positively surprised

Also, even if cable TV dominates the consumer’s ways of receiving TV – DTV OTA is a cheaper and a more for the money way to bring basic DTV to your living room than most other services. Hey it´s free! And also in HD! Consumers will love the fact. And they can get it without subscribing to a monthly service. Saving money is always good, especially when you get more than before.

4. Who is the face of the transition?

Someone or a few personalities can “face” the audience and bring a clear message out. Result, the transition can “connect” to consumers. It is very much easier for anyone to understand the transition if someone explains it in person – on screen, of screen, anywhere and everywhere. Yesterday there was a sudden break in the flow of commercials  on TV. Former Presidents Clinton and Bush s.r appeared. Their message: For small companies, kids and the country to be prepared in the event of an emergency,it’s get ready America month. A message made in a minute to promote ready.gov. For older people unsure and wary about the transition there is a need of leadership, by a person or a team. Clinton and Bush made that effort in a great way. Who will step in their shoes for the DTV transition. Today that feels like a kamikaze job but it may turn out to be the most revarding.

5. Bring on the market.

Converter boxes should be in stores already,don’t you think. 92% of all analog TV stations are already broadcasting in DTV. Why must people wait to get a box? That is a mystery to me…
In an interview by Harry A. Jessell in TV Newsday states that NTIA will wait to send DTV coupons until converter boxes are in stores. Marc Pearl, Executive Director at CERC thinks that converter boxes will be on the shelves in early 2008.

The boxes can make the transition practical and comprehendeble for consumers. Today the transition is an abstract event far away from daily deeds. And we like to buy and talk about things don’t we?

6. People want more broadband content.

According to a survey made by IBM, consumers are using their TV set less than ever. Instead consumers are using computers and pods with broadband to get information and TV content. As we all know, broadband is the future. But OTA DTV might have a place as easy low-cost DTV. Compared to heavy tech broadband usage. New research in the U.K confirmes this according to BBC. Until broadband usage is as seamless and easy as using a telephone or a water boiler…

Everything else goes digital. Someday maybe even the water boiler…

So, if the transition updates todays analog TV to better and cheaper quality than cable- or satellite TV – the money might be spent on broadband instead. Isn’t that a winner for everyone?

7. Use DTV information tickers in the TV screen. Its a killer app to make people wake up.


Anders Bjers

P.S Not only a giant awakening, also a giant blogpost 🙂 D.S


IBM To Manage DTV Transition Coupons For NTIA

August 16, 2007

IBM will, together with three partners, manage the DTV transition coupons program for NTIA.

In a flash newsrelease via PR Agency CrosbyVolmer, NAB comments NTIAs choice. “This is an important step in a process that will bring digital television (DTV) to all Americans,”says Jonathan Collegio, Vice President of the NAB’s digital television transition unit.

NTIA Administrator John Kneuer stated earlier: “This is a major milestone toward implementing a successful Coupon Program to ensure the switch from analog to digital television is completed smoothly and as planned,” according to PC magazine. CNNMoney / DowJones reports that IBM will work together with Corporate Lodging Consultants, Epiq Systems and Ketchum. Multichannel news reports that the contract is worth $120 million. IBM’s John Nyland concludes in a pressrelease that “A complex initiative like this requires innovative thinking, leading technologies and cooperation among retailers, broadcasters and government agencies”.

I think it is a very interesting and surprising move! IBM will have the capability to manage the coupons program logistically but will it have the brains to come up with the smart ways to bring the information out to the ones who is in need? Most needy of the converter box coupons will probably are the ones with low-tech tools and knowledge. So IBMs challenge will be to go from high-tech to low-tech with a high-tech message… And it has to be in sync with the DTV coalition’s campaigns. Confusion is high and consumers are in most need with clear and well designed messages to be able to grasp the value of the coupons.

Let’s keep track of how IBM will carry this one out…

More comments on this will follow…

Anders Bjers

TIVO + HDTV Antennas – Check the DTV Pro’s Comments

August 13, 2007

Today a comment came in about HDTV antennas and TIVO’s. About 8 percent* of TIVO owners are using their TIVO with a antenna. Probably more consumers will discover the TIVO as a great option compared with cable and satellite TV. Check out a site called HDTV Antenna Guide – to learn more, if you will.

Anders Bjers

* unconfirmed source.

DTV Antennas – Sharing Consumer Advice From Professionals

August 12, 2007

The otherday a comment on this blog came in. It is a long list of advices about the state of antennas in the U.S concerning the forthcoming transition. Here’s some insights from Dennys Antenna Service, Ithaca, MI.

Disclaimer: The following is not my words or information. But I want to forward them because of the fact that they concieve the many options and facts that are to face consumers in a practical way when they are about to make changes to recieve TV over the air in digital. Please feel free to comment on the advices or ad your own advices. Use the comment form below. I will aprove comments before they appear.
Please enjoy and thank you Denny’s for sharing your knowledge

Anders Bjers

Consumer interest in free over the air digital- HD TV is definitely on the increase. The number of visitors to our web site http://www.dennysantennaservice.com has skyrocketed over the past year, mainly do to the introduction of free over the air digital – HDTV.
Choosing the proper TV antenna for a particular location is the main issue for most. Many consumer’s have a tendency to purchase antennas that are to small to do the job, digital reception is an all or nothing proposition, you’re going to want a strong signal. Also, there is a misconception that all digital – HDTV broadcast signals are on the UHF band (14-69) Currently it’s true, many broadcaster’s are transmitting their digital signals on UHF, because much of the VHF band (2-13) is currently being used to broadcast analog TV signals. However, when the digital transition is complete on February 17th of 2009, the date set when broadcasters will turn off their analog signals, things will change. There are only a handful of broadcast locations across the U.S. that have plans to remain 100% on the UHF band, most areas will have both VHF and UHF digital stations. This means if you purchase a UHF TV antenna now, chances are you may loose the ability to receive a portion of your digital channels in the future. Some areas already have VHF digital stations.

My best advice is to purchase a TV antenna that is large enough to be certain it can easily receive all of the digital broadcast signals in your area, even during poor reception conditions. The antenna should be VHF/UHF capable, unless you are absolutely certain all of your stations are currently UHF, and will remain UHF after the digital transition is complete. To determine the channel number your area digital stations currently broadcast on now, and the channel number they plan to broadcast on after the 2009 analog shutdown date, visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-06-1082A2.pdf. When you visit this site, start by finding your state and then the city where your area stations are located. The channel number that appears in the first column is the current digital channel number of that station, the second column is the current analog channel number, and the third column is the tentative final channel number destination. The third column is the channel number where the station plans to permanently broadcast their digital signal. VHF channels are 2 – 13 and UHF are 14 – 69. If your not sure where or what stations are available in your area, visit www.antennaweb.org. This is a great site to visit, it will provide the city location of the stations in your area and much more.

USA Today Focus On Downside of DTV Transition – Analyze This

August 7, 2007

Mainstream media is starting to pitch up the pace reporting about the DTV transition. USA Today is a recent example. Mike Snider, a reporter in the Tech section, has made both a Q&A and an article about the DTV transition. But he really gets a few things on the wrong foot. As readers of the web edition has made comments on. It will be common among reporters to not get facts and things right about the transition, it is complex but really not rocket science.

The focus of the article is on the downside of the transition. This is really the “safe side” reporting. It is easier to be critical then “fair and balanced”. However, this article is really confusing. It is unclear what downside Mr. Snider is referring to in the headline. Is it that DTV has been focused on HDTV? (It is really two different sides of the same coin). Is it that analog broadcast will be shut of? (They will, but it sounds like they will disappear – they won’t. Broadcast continues as usual but in digital only.) Is the downside that lawmakers are worried? (They are, but is that really bad? They should track this issue and the TV industry is really behind the schedule).

Mr. Snider writes: “An old TV should be connected to satellite, Cable or an add-on digital tuner”. Why not use the word converter box? Let’s help the audience by using the most common definition. And, there are more options. How bout using a TivoHD? It works great with an antenna. Also there are DVD recorders with built in DTV tuners. More is that there should be a greater selection of converter boxes on the shelves. In Europe there are more than 100 different models on the market in countries like the U.K, Germany and Sweden. Will the U.S get there?

It is great that USA Today writes about the transition. But I think that NAB, FCC, NTIA and other stakeholders should bring more basic knowledge to reporters to grab before they write. It’s really for the consumer’s best. Media will be the strongest force when it comes to bring awareness to consumers. It is really a steep learning curve for most reporters. But the DTV transition shouldn’t be presented as rocket science – it’s not.

NABs newsletter links to the article discussed above but headlines it a bit different: Plenty of work remains before DTV deadline

Interestingly enough Mr. Sniders Q&A is more to the point. Headlined “Is your television ready for the DTV transition?“. A more practical guide for consumers. NABs newsletter don’t link to this article though.

Nobody will miss analog TV. DTV broadcast bring much better picture quality, more channels, new services and possibilities to develop the TV as a medium.

One problem is that very few have experienced DTV, in the U.S, with an antenna and a converter box. It is easier to focus on the downsides only then, but there is really more to report about than the fuzz, confusion and low awareness. But I guess the uncertainty that lack of information brings, makes the day for the downsides of the transition.

Anders Bjers

Wanted – FCC Seeks DTV Deputy

August 6, 2007

Maybe, this isn’t the kind of FCC Deputy that you first think of. But a newly launched online effort makes it possible to become a FCC cerftified DTV Deputy.

Well, have you ever dreamed of becoming a helper in that wild west of DTV land – reaching out to people in need and flash a starshaped badge on your chest? Now is your chance to make that dream come true.

FCC has launched a DTV Quiz. If you make all three steps you are honoured with, guess what – a Deputy DTV badge. Check it out – dtvcert.pdf

Well what can I say.. I made it…

Be careful out there..It´s a wild wild DTV world..

Anders Bjers

How Will The DTV Transition Spur Innovation?

August 6, 2007

The transition to DTV is a challenge in itself for many stakeholders. But what will come out of the transition? Often the reports focus on the “dark” side of the transition. In other words what happens if consumers don’t manage to install or buy converter box in time for the acutal transition in 2009. But if we focus for a moment on the “side effects” of a transition. Effects that are really the motivation and opportunities made possible by the transition, when we have cut loose from the analog braodcast limitations. One insight is John Kneuers presentation from SuperNova 2007 presented at PodTech. Mr. Kneuer is an expert on technology policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Lean back, let your imagination loose and enjoy.

Anders Bjers

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/07/PID_011826/Podtech_kneuer.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/3526/john-kneuer-a-supernova-2007-spotlight &totalTime=467000&breadcrumb=67cd4451236c442ebee3d8fe205e2c0b]

P.S Turn up the volume D.S

Coming up: DTV on-line trends