State of the Multibox for the U.S Market

June 24, 2008

One of the most viewed posts on this blog is the one headlined “One DTV-converterbox for the whole house“. the post is still and steadily growing in attraction since the phrase is a very common search on Google and other search engines. Also, it is a kind of product that many would like to have – lowering the cost and make the transition easier. The product the post is telling about is the Multibox – a true “One converter box for the whole house”. Pictured below from the product site at A2B.  It doesn’t come  in a “applesque” cool design, after all it is supposed to be placed up in the attic..

Many have made comments on this blog and asked about more details for the converter box. One commentator has pinpointed a great thing about having one converterbox for the whole house – it won´t use as much energy as having several boxes within the house. Thinking lean and green is a smart thing.

However, I asked Mr. Ari Miettinen at A2B, the company who is producing the so called Multibox, if it is sold on the U.S market yet and what their plans are. Ari told me that the model that they sell in Europe does not work in the U.S due to the different standard for broadcasts in the U.S (ATSC).

Mr. Miettinen say that they do understand the great interest in the U.S for a Multibox. And they are developing something for the U.S market. But, they can’t say anything yet about the plans or time until something is ready to be launched.

So my advice to you who are interested in a Multibox is to send an e-mail to A2B, expressing your interest for the U.S version of the Multibox. That might speed up the process. And by the way – ask your local DTV retailer if they have anything like it – if not give them a heads up on this one..

Anders Bjers

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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


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


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