U.S DTV Awareness On The Rise

March 26, 2008

News has been low lately about the DTV switch. But today a survey reveals that 6 out of 10 Americans now are aware of the U.S. transition to DTV. BroadcastingCable reports about the survey made by Frank N. Magid Associates. In September 2007 a survey found that only 34% knew about the transition. U.S consumer awareness is on the rise and that is good news. However, it is still a good deal of work that remains. The next question for consumers to be asked is more crucial, that is: If they know if they are affected by the transition at all. Cable and satellite viewers are not affected directly.

In Sweden, one of few countries that has completed a national transition, the DTV switch is over and done. Last survey sheds new light on the transition. First, Consumers who were most negative to do the switch, now is among the most positive – their low expectations were exceeded. Second, now one third of elderly people are actively viewing a greater amount of channels than before the switch. Third, most people had a converter box installed before the actual transition – that proofs that the information awareness campaigns worked well. Mission completed!

Anders Bjers


DTV Transition – Test Run Or Not?

March 4, 2008

New York Times reports that FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wants to do a real life DTV-test run. That is: to shut down analog signals and broadcast in digital only. Copps suggests this should be possible to do in some test-markets. Among sources reporting about this is: AP, Boston Herald, Mercury News, MSNBC and Washington Post among many many others.

I think it is a great idea. The US follows in the steps of most European countries that is or already have completed a national or semi-national transition to DTV. In most countries the transition is made in phases. Why the U.S. didn’t choose that path is a mystery.
The U.S challenge? To pick the right market for this test run.

Or is it a test? A test suggests that you switch Off the analog signals and then On again. I think that is hard. I believe that you turn off the signal and then you continue in digital only until the real transition day. Because if you re to turn on the analog signals again, few consumers would bother to get the equipment. Why? Because consumers tend to wait as much as possible to change. And also, would they, consumers, really believe that the TV signal would be shut down? In Sweden’s very first phase a majority of consumers didn’t really believe that the analog TV-signal were going to be shut down. People said -” can you really do that?”.

But when the signal was down it also sent a different message, but even more important, to the audience in the whole country: The transition to DTV will take place.

That kind of “consumer awareness” is something that the U.S. is in need of with less than a year left to the national transition.

You can read the letter from Mr Copps to FCC Chairman Martin here: Letter from Comm. M. Copps. And the reply to Commissioner Copps here: Letter from Chrm. Martin

So, stay tuned when and were a test run will take place. Bets are taken, clock is ticking..

Anders Bjers


One DTV Converter For The Whole House

March 4, 2008

Today I saw that someone had made a Google search on the subject “One converter box for the whole house”. It caught my attention because it is a logic question that many will ask when they know they need a box.

It goes something like – If I have three or four TV sets can I have one box?

When you have several TV-sets in the house but little interest in technology you probably want to make the transition as easy as possible. Creating converter boxes is no rocketscience but to figure out consumers needs and demand and make a great box, that is a challenge. A smooth transition is in many ways the same as easy-to-use technology.
A Swedish company saw the the need from households, elderly and landlords who needed a simple solution for the TV-set. The company made a “Multibox”. It works for several TV-sets simultaneously. You connect the box to the antenna, preferably up in the attic. If you have a system of cables already installed in the house you let the box be connected to that system. Little changes, no extra remote controls, something granny appreciates.

I don’t know if this would work in the U.S. but it is really interesting thought if the U.S market do have a need for a simple solution – one box for the whole house. Another smart thing is that this box still let the analog signal run through so you can continue watching that Low Power TV station that won’t transfer to digital signals.

Check out the Multibox.

/Anders Bjers

P.S. Another smart thing, with a Multibox, the VCR continues to work “as usual”… D.S.


U.S DTV Public Opinion Shifts From What To How

March 3, 2008

The past six months have been much about bringing awareness to consumers about the DTV transition. The mission for NAB and all the other stakeholders has been to awaken the general audience to the fact that TV as they know it is about to change: From analog to digital. That in combination with the offer to grab two DTV converter box coupons from NTIA.

I dare to say that the big push is almost over, in its first phase. (you cant stop this mission until the D-day is here but you need to move on at the same time with new challenges).

I believe there is a logic order in every national transition to DTV. The next step in this logic order is this:

Consumers are moving from WHAT to HOW. This is the zone we are about to enter with full force in the US right now.

New challenges are about to arise for stakeholders when consumers are starting to act on the messages they have received.

And the focus will be on the consumer from now on. What do they need, how will they really receive TV before and after the transition day, in digital quality.

And consumers will enter a new phase – the djungle of choices to make

This is a real challenge for stakeholders to become a supporting partner for every consumer entering a store to grab that converter box.

From now on and the remaining part of 2008 consumers will be forced to think through how they want to receive TV in the future. What kind of channels they think they want to watch and how much money do they want or need to spend.

And retailers will be there for them because the DTV transition offers a second season of Christmas like shopping for electronic goods. With the weakened U.S economy this transition will be a bigger thing than of the economy were strong and flourishing. Consumers will be both forced and “inspired” to spend billions of dollars on electronics.

So, the focus will be on the actions, demands and needs that consumers will have to be able to view TV as usual.

And the focus will be on retailers because that is the place were the shift from analog to digital TV really happens.

In that situation everyone will be looking for answers to common questions. The one retailer that will become the true expert on DTV will have consumers greatest confidence and that will lead to great sales.

How can I make these statements?

First, my own experience from transitions in Sweden tells this.

Second, signs are surfacing that strengthens my theory.

One is that Google search patterns has changed. During the past months most searches has been focusing on “DTV answers”. As a reaction to all the PSA:s put out by NAB and stakeholders.

A few weeks back people tend to search for more practical answers. I would say that only a rough third are searching for “DTV answers“. The rest is looking for information about converter boxes, antennas, reception and other kind of DTV related information.

Another sign is that reporting among local newspapers has changed a bit. From the big WHAT to HOW. Washington Post blogger Rob Pegoraro writes about his a first hand experience of the shift.

A third sign is that new stakeholders has appeared on the scene. One of them is U.S. PIRG – the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups.

Recently U.S. PIRG released the results from a national survey about retailers, consumers and the DTV transition. The titel of the survey is: Mixed Signals: How TV Retailers Mislead Consumers on the Digital Television (DTV) Transition

With the help of secret shoppers U.S. PIRG reports:

# 81% of sales staff provided inaccurate information about converter boxes.
# 78% of sales staff provided inaccurate information about the coupon program.
# 42% of sales staff provided inaccurate information about the transition date.
# 20% of sales staff tried to up-sell surveyors to digital TVs or upscale converter boxes.

This is a core challenge for stakeholders: To get sales staff to understand the real effects of the DTV transition.

That is: local issues and implications.

Examples:

– What about consumers reception.

– How to connect a converter box to a range of other equipment that consumers have started to use with TV sets.

– How to convert battery powered TV sets.

– How to continue to receive Low Powerd Broadcasters even if the don’t broadcast in digital after the transition (they do not need to)

– and other practical or semi-practical questions.

I will get back with some practical suggestions on how to manage this. But the shift is here and this is were the real work begins to make the transition a smooth experience for consumers.

Best / Anders Bjers