DTV PSA Trailers Blazes The D.C Area First

As of yesterday commercial broadcasters in the Washington D.C broadcast TV market begun airing synchronized public service announcements, PSAs. It is according to NAB an “unprecedented” effort that so many broadcasters are working together to reach out with messages about the upcoming DTV transition.

Among the participating stations are: WRC (4), WTTG (5), WJLA (7), WUSA (9), WDCA (20), WDCW (50),WFDC (14) and WZDC (25). Among the major broadcast networks represented you will find NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, My Network TV, CW. For the Spanish speaking community broadcasters Univision and Telemundo will put out messages in Spanish only.

According to the media magazine Twice the PSAs are “warning consumers that the transition to digital broadcasting is coming — so be prepared”.

NAB and the broadcasters should really have credit for putting out trailers with information about the transition in sync. Many countries experience that making different stakeholders work together around unified messages is the hardest thing of all during the process to manage a transition. After all, many years have been spent on not working together but competing and positioning against each other. Suddenly, you are forced to work together because of a mutual goal – a successful transition and to “move” the audience as smooth as possible and making it worthwhile to pay for converterboxes in many cases without knowing or understanding what you as a consumer get. Another good example of cooperation is the consensus NAB, CEA and MSTV showed in September about the NTIA converter box coupons program.

However, a few comments:

– Why start now airing PSAs?

It is really the heavy artillery that is brought to the audience. And there are no DTV converter boxes in stores (This is what you get on Best Buy and it might take a while). We are only weeks away from the Christmas shopping frenzy. A converter box is a great gift after all and might be the top gift for the Christmas in 2008. Consumers may be dissapointed and frustrated when they are alerted about the transition but can’t do anything active about it. (Even if consumers need time to understand what to do as Chris Hunter blogs).

I think the PSAs are launched with another audience in mind: lawmakers, lobbyists, commissioners, representatives, senators and every heavy stakeholder that decides about the context of the transition. After all a DTV transition is a hyper local event and so is decision making in D.C in some aspects.

– Why only broadcast PSAs during the evening news?

The PSAs are to be broadcast at 5 PM on Wednesdays and Thursdays and at 6 PM on Friday evenings simultainously on all participating stations. I think in upcoming months it will be a great thing to broadcast PSAs during daytime TV when many elderly and other hard to reach groups may want to watch TV. And this PSA schedule will step up as we get closer the actual transition date. Also it is great to start out with trials in the D.C area and export it to the rest of the U.S states.

And once again, surely media stakeholders are a news savvy group that use the TV for the evening news.

If you want maximum viewer attention – why not show the PSAs more often than three times a week?

Twice reports that “The spots will feature top talent from each station, presenting a unifying message that “digital television is coming with its dramatically clearer pictures, sound and additional programming choices.”

Again,this is a good move to use well known faces to put out the messages. Will make people more confident. But at the same time, where is the debate about the transition among consumers and will there be a debate? That is an interesting topic to keep track of during the coming months when the knowledge will start to sink in that many have to buy something they haven’t asked for but won’t be without – after the transition.

Anders Bjers

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