Wanted: DTV Spokespersons In Charge

February 13, 2008

DTV information campaigns are continuing the work to overcome the challenge in bringing information to every consumer affected by the transition. Media is covering the topic almost daily or weekly at least. Comments pours into this blog on the subject. One of the latest is this one below, I want to share it here as a sign of how many consumers may be feeling for the moment about the DTV transition.

I am interested in what all of this means to me. I have lived in a rural area from birth. Our TV reception has always been marginal, with just a couple of stations with decent reception and about 5 more with varying degrees of watchable reception. Locally, there are about 5 stations broadcasting DTV. I am still totally analog, so far. It seems that this coming transition is not well organized. I think a leader must emerge and take the risk to get the converter boxes to the public. At this time, a converter box is not available at my local Radio Shack. I am semi-patiently waiting. I haven’t signed up for my coupons, yet.”

I hope the launch of converter boxes in the coming weeks can help this reader. Often the reception will become much better with digital TV signals. If the reception still is poor after the converter box is connected, the problem might be the antenna. If it is old and worn, it needs to be replaced.

The question of a leader to emerge is interesting. As of now there is not one single person who is in charge of the whole transition. The press conference at Best Buy in Washington D.C last week was a gathering with all the top stakeholders on stage together. I doubt one single person will step forward as the person to be in over-all charge of the transition. However, what I do think is missing right now is one or a few real spokespersons. That has the ability to explain the transition easily and answer common questions from consumers about the transition with clarity. I think media would appreciate this as well.

It would make it much easier to bring one message to the audience about the transition. Even when stakeholders gather together on a stage they have different views on what information is important in their own perspective. By all means, they do have various roles in the transition. The DTV coalition, federal authorities and other stakeholders are doing a great job in working together but they would be able to make the understanding about the DTV transition even easier for consumers if they could pick a few spokespersons that would meet the audience both face to face and through media.

To work together and be united is great and creates a solid base of trust to work from, but it may also confuse consumers when many talking heads that don’t differ much from the politicians now overflowing broadcasts. One or a few spokesperson with deep understanding and a manner that enables them to communicate a complex issue in a simple and easy way – that would be a factor that could help smooth the transition – from a consumers perspective.

If consumers are doing great in the time ahead of the transition – the whole transition will be splendid.

Anders Bjers

P.S Funny how things can play out. Just after I punched publish for this latest post I did a Google News search on “DTV transition”. I found a piece from Multichannel News only 12 hours old headlined “Hill Lawmakers want DTV Czar”. Bullseye… D.S


Converter boxes Now Sold At Wal-Marts

February 13, 2008

The first chain to sell converter boxes is Wal-Mart! This week the first converter boxes can see daylight at Wal-Marts across the U.S. The boxes offered are two: One from Thomson RCA and another from Magnavox. Both sold at $49.87. They are also found online but only sold in physical stores this far. The Magnavox box have features like “a trilingual on-screen display, audio/video output, antenna input (F-type connector), remote control and a digital audio output for use with optional surround sound systems”, according to the web page.

With a “DTV coupon” from NTIA, consumers have to pay about ten dollars for a converter box.

This is off course great news for many consumers waiting somewhat in-patiently to buy a converter box. Wal-Mart releases their offer of converter boxes almost a week ahead of other retailers roll-outs of boxes to stores.

Anders Bjers

State Of The DTV Transition – Mixed But Going Forward

February 8, 2008

Yesterday was the big day for DTV stakeholders and officials. At the Best Buy meetup in D.C the NTIA:s DTV coupon was unveiled as a red “look-a-like” credit card that is worth $40 each.

Media is reporting about the event but with mixed results. It seams to me that even the stakeholders don’t really know for sure how many households that are really affected by the transitions.  Also,  the level of knowledge among consumers are unclear. Recent reports and surveys give varied results. Kim Hart at Washington Post writes, “consumers don’t know the transition is coming and have never heard about these converter boxes”. She also notes that this will be an interesting year.

U.S newsagency AFP writes about the event headlining it as “U.S gears up or the DTV switch” and cites FCC Chairman Martin saying ” more needs to be done” to inform the US consumers about the upcoming transition. AFP also sorts through some stats about the state of the transition as of now.

Media and bloggers love statistics and love when facts are unclear. Clear facts should be provided in sync among stakeholders, thats bascis Especially when they are on stage together. Wired blogger Bryan Gardiner picks up just that and keeps the ball of uncertainty rolling in his post.  Gardiner is citing Best Buys spokesperson Brian Lucas who comments on converter box sales, saying: “It’s a difficult situation because nobody has done this before. So, yes, there’s some uncertainty.”  My questions is – why don´t best buy send a team overseas to study sales and retailers efforts in Europe where actual transition has taken place. In Sweden for example the retailers really had a second Christmas season because of the transition. And during times of economic instability that shouldn’t be to bad. And I am firmly believing that consumer behaviour are just about the same in the U.S as in Europe. As well as retailers situation.

The Insignia converter box that Best buy will sell is a very simple box. Electronic house reporter Rachel Cericola writes about that box.

The Consumer Electronics Association, CEA, released new results from research that revealed the top sources consumers are using to learn about the transition. The prime source is television (72%), family and friends (39%) and the Internet (26%).  I think in any case this showes what important role the media itself will play to “move” the consumers into action.

I am astonished that either NAB or any of the stakeholders made a podcast or webbcast of yesterdays event. If there is anything important in a transition to do, it is to bring out unified messages. To bring down the level of uncertainty. I think this event was a great opportunity to spread the word from the top stakeholders to everyone involved in the mission. Also, it would be a great source for media to embed and pick up along with their own reporting. Even if the transition will be a hyper local event there will be few moments when the heads of the stakeholders share the stage together as they did yesterday.

Anders Bjers

Stakeholders Unite Today at Best Buy Box Event In D.C

February 7, 2008

Today there is a grand get together at a local Best Buy Store in Washington D.C. The chief executives of the prime stakeholders are gathering to promote the “soon to come to a store near you” – DTV converter box. Few have seen any but many are asking where they are. Best Buy promises to get their boxes on shelfs on the 18th of February. However, it will only be one of a kind to choose from – Best Buys own brand Insignia. The box will cost $50-$70. The question is if other retailers will match Best Buys offer with a greater selection. And it is only a month ago that Best Buy Executives expressed concerns and even being nervous about not being able to get boxes on shelfs in time.

On stage today you will find: The U.S Commerce Secretary Mr Carlos Gutierrez, FCC chairman Kevin Martin, NAB president and CEO David K. Rehr, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, NCTA, president Kyle McSlarrow together with Consumer Electronics Association, CEA, vice president Jason Oxman and Best Buy senior VP Michael Vitelli. NTIA is represented by the Secretary of Commerce.

Some of the stakeholders that gathers today in D.C will also be the ones that consumers will hold accountable if something in the transition backfires. I think it is a great thing that they come together because it is easy to believe as one local paper put it that Congress has ordered broadcasters to shut down the analog transmissions and switch to digital. The facts is that many stakeholders are working together as never before to make this transition a smooth one. I hope the stakeholders can put a just as positive spin on the DTV transition as some superduper political contenders has done in their campaigns. After all, there are few national events to match a national transition to digital television. Be sure that this D-day will be greatly covered by news media.

Local newspapers are picking up the story about the transition in an increasing amount. Most of them put out the basic facts about the transition. Even if the confusion still seam to be great. I guess the primaries have put enough on peoples minds to care about little else.

The thing is that the market should be flooded this year with boxes to choose from and the prices should start to drop a bit. No one wants people to wait to the last few days before the actual transition. Even if you have to count somewhere around 5-10 percent who will do just that.

I get messages from people all over the US who is asking why the converter box coupons are “released” but no boxes in stores to be find anywhere. One lady even asked me to send her a box and attached her address. Well, it’s great that people put confidence in this blog but we do not sell converter boxes, yet…

But what I do offer is knowledge and experience. Or that might be spelled Hope to make the Change to DTV, in these primary times. Because it will be an astonishing difference – to the better. And I am talking TV now..

Yours truly

/ Anders Bjers