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

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White-Space Devices Disturb TV? Even More Will Interfere With DTV!

January 11, 2008

The battle continues between traditional broadcast companies and new wireless actors on the block that aims to use the white-space, air waves released by the DTV transition. Again there is a dispute if new wireless devices are interfering with airwaves or not. Washington Post reports from the scene where the Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA) claims that NAB is leading a “misinformation campaign” that misleads decision-makers such as FCC. The question is if new wireless gadgets and devices are or will be interfering with TV signals and similar airwaves. WIAs letter to FCC is pointing out that decisions about white-space usage should be based on technical grounds.

NABs VP Wharton, says in a pressrelease that a successful DTV transition is in peril and that the WIA devices failed testings. ” That is not misinformation but an inconvenient truth”, states Wharton.

This battle do not really focus on the transition as such. I don’t really understand how Wharton can link WIA to a failed transition to DTV, if it fails I think it will be because consumers didn’t get proper information and/or the converter boxes would fail. One example is if the supply would glitch.

My experience is that the digital TV broadcasts might be severely interfered in other ways. I know from several cases (in Sweden) where people had interference in the reception because buses, motorbikes and even trains passed not to far from their home. And made the digital picture freeze or become “pixel-ed”. Just as converter boxes will react differently to bad weather or trees full of leaves, they will react in different ways when it comes to other interfering signals in the air. That is not from any new wireless device but from old fashioned “travel gadgets”. I must point out that interference like this is not common, but it happens quite widely when it comes interference because of weather and trees.

Converter boxes differ on how well they are shielded from other external signals or currents. I think this is a much more serious problem from a consumers perspective. Especially when it is the first generation of converter boxes that will flood retailers shelf’s. How well will they work? I believe no one really knows right now, since the converter boxes are in the making in this moment as you read this text. NTIAs requirements for converters doesn’t really cover this topic, I think.

But consumer will care about their brand new promising box.

Anders Bjers


Fifty Percent Of U.S Households Owns A Digital TV Set Today

December 29, 2007

Today there are reports that 50 % of the households owns a digital TV and a new survey suggests that 38 percent watch TV online. But, much is left in the air. Are the digital TV sets connected to a digital signal? And what are people watching online? And when and who is watching? Surveys are good but more clarification is needed.

The use of digital TV sets increases in the U.S. Darren Murph at EngadgetHD writes that half of US households now owns a digital TV according to statistics in a pressrelease from CEA, the Consumer Electronics Association. They (CEA) also predicts that 32 million TV sets will be sold in 2008. And 79% of them will be a HDTV set. This, in part, because of the upcoming transition. Marketing campaigns will be tremendous during next year to make consumers switch to a digital TV set or a converter box. However, owning a digital TV set is one thing. Neither the article or CEA reveals how many of the digital TV sets are actually receiving TV shows in digital quality, with a digital signal. That is crucial information that is missing out.

In march 2007, 28 percent of the households were owners of at least one HDTV set.

2008 will surely be a hot DTV year. With converter boxes entering the market, more campaigns launched and consumers being aroused to the fact that they ave to spend money to be able to watch television. All this along with a presidential election and online TV will gain momentum just as viewing TV on your cell phone or Ipod. A new survey suggests that 38% now watch TV online. The survey is made by Deloitte & Touche writes Hollywood Reporter (Reuters).

Buckle up for a tense ride. The media landscape is shifting into new forms. Just as consumer behaviors.

Anders Bjers


NAB President Rehr Talks DTV Transition And Future of Broadcast Media

November 5, 2007

NAB President and CEO David Rehr appeared on C-spans The Communicators recently to talk about the DTV transition, media ownership and the future of broadcast media.

Mr Rehr pointed out that the DTV transition is a renaissance for the TV media, however he did not elaborate on the subject in a more practical way – what can we expect? With DTV broadcast the TV picture will be crisp clear and the sound magnificent compared with todays analog TV, but that is really no news. He also wished there might be a migration from cable or satellite TV to broadcast DTV since it is free, with more channels coming up and with better quality. But the launch of DTV converter boxes can’t move fast enough. Today there is no boxes in stores even when information campaigns is up and running in full steam. The ambition is to get them in stores in January ´08. Little was said though about the efforts to reach niche groups, such as elderly or Spanish speaking. To reach the broad audience won’t be the hardest thing but to move the ones who are not as connected as many of us are.

Talking about the future of media is exciting. It is in sync with another transition – the move from the linear media world built on the laws of the industrial age to the non-linear multicomplex world of the information age that relies on connections and being connected, wherever and whenever to whatever – the consumer wants for the moment..

NABs President and CEO David Rehr said that up to 40% of local TV-stations audience click on the local TV-stations website when they go on-line! He thought that is amazing numbers for broadcast media and that the business should talk and do more about their on-line presence. One interesting effort to create a stronger local presence is NBC Hometown. And the campaigns for the DTV transition will at the same time work as a gigantic marketing campaign for local broadcast TV and imagine the thousands of on-air infomercials about the transition pushing traffic to the dtvanswers website run by NAB. On the other hand the battle will take place in stores when consumers have to make a choice between converter boxes for their roof top antenna or switch cable-, satellite- or maybe broadband TV. A “new” market is up for grabs..

Rehr mentioned that the top selling ad-on for Ipods is an FM-converter, making it possible to listen to live broadcast radio on your Ipod. If that is the case it is very interesting. Will that same need be transferred to the DTV sphere?

Will there be DTV converters for your Ipod or Iphone? That makes it possible for you to walk around watching live TV on your Ipod? Cool and simply irresistible. Or why not have a built in DTV receiver in your next Iphone. This years top invention is probably the Iphone and all media is going digital – so the next great thing should be portable wireless TV. Something Sanyo has already built.

This is what European media companies is thinking as well. Trials with DVB-H (the standard handheld Digital TV) has turned out successfully in both Germany and Sweden. So start imagine your Ipod loaded with Live TV for free and call your local Apple store to encourage them to make it possible. And in todays New York Times there is a piece about CBS Mobile, a interesting example on how to make your phone or maybe your Ipod so much more than a phone and also a TV.

Anders Bjers

P.S Things that Rehr did not talk about but would be interesting to hear more about: HDTV with an antenna + confusion about the difference between DTV, more about the different types of converter boxes – what will the choices be for consumers? On-line TV like Joost and Hulu vs broadcast TV (and hey – check this great article in NYT), NBCs move from Itunes and more on portable broadcast TV. D.S


U.S Consumer DTV Education Campaigns Reach Full Steam

October 31, 2007

NAB has announced that the second phase of the DTV consumer education campaigns is in full swing. This phase is long awaited for by stakeholders, decision- and lawmakers. Also, NAB have launched ads to reach lawmakers and stakeholders in D.C, awareness is not only a goal among consumers. Probably is the awareness among lawmakers just as low, even if this matter should concern them more. NAB and the DTV coalition has in fairly short time succeeded in putting together unified messages to reach out to consumers in the effort to prepare consumers to act well in time before the actual transition in ’09. The question remains though how well they will reach out and make people take action.

A difference compared to other countries is that there are no converter boxes in stores yet.

The campaigns consists of the following parts:

· DTV Action” television spots

· Crawls, snipes and/or news tickers during programming

· 30-minute educational programs about DTV

· 100-day countdown to the February 17, 2009, DTV deadline

· Public relations elements, including earned media coverage in newspapers and online

· DTV Road Show that will visit 600 locations nationwide

· DTV Speakers Bureau that will reach one million consumers

· Online banner ads on TV station Web sites

About a 1000 U.S broadcasters are using these tools to reach out. I think that is a great move – the transition is a hyper-local event. People will turn to their local stations for information and local retailers, talking with neighbours for advice and tips. A truly glocal example in todays flat world.

NAB has learned much from campaigns in Europe. It is almost a blueprint off the campaigns successfully carried out in Sweden. And the key components as the ticker, roadshow and earned media are the core components used in both Sweden and U.K. But why should the U.S invent the wheel? A transition is not really rocket science (any more) but a great effort and a real challenge for stakeholders and communication professionals. It isn’t very often you come across projects with these very special features and circumstances. Think about it: limited time that are constantly shrinking – a constant countdown, A complex mass of stakeholders that you want to coordinate to walk and talk in the same manner and direction, a limited budget, a broad range of targetgroups where the hardest to “move” and educate are in many ways the hardest group to reach with any message, a political dimension that is delicate to handle because if the project should backfire – people in the political sphere will be directly effected. And add to that a huge opportunity and challenge for retailers to provide the hardwear needed to make the transition possible on an individual level. It might even be material for a reality show…

But the greatest ally will be silence, how strange it may seam. Because if it is silent the days before a transition everything will work fine. A bold assumption but also the true reciept of a successful transition in Sweden.

It will be interesting to follow if silence will be the state of the transition on the 17th of February 2009, with two days to go..

Right now there is little silence. NAB estimates that the campaign will generate 98 billion audience impressions during the course of the campaign. If there is silence among stakeholders at this point something is very wrong. But I believe the DTV transition will be smooth and great.

Anders Bjers


Top Search – DTV Answer(s)

October 31, 2007

Something is about to happen among consumers in the US. The past week I have noticed a increased interest in answers about the DTV transition. When it comes to searches on the web, my guess is that NABs campaigns and their efforts to reach out is making a slow progress but with important effects. And desirable, not the least to say. NAB reports that 1,000 broadcasters are participating in the ongoing campaigns to educate consumers. And the theme is: DTV answers…

The top Q on Google got to be searches about practical answers for the DTV transition. When I punch in “DTV Answer” on Google this blog makes the top two searches. hmmm… Maybe NAB didn’t think of all us who forget to spell the question with an “S” in the end. The site and service NAB have set up is DTV Answers. Boy what a difference one syllable makes in the web world.. However let’s get moving about those question..

What are everybody looking for in terms of answers?

Let me guess:

– When is the DTV transition taking place?

– Where will it happen and when?

– What is the DTV transition?

– Do I need to do something?

– What should I do?

– Who is really affected?

– What about those coupons that I think I heard of somewhere, can I get one?

– What about one of those converterboxes…?

Please – make a comment what you are looking for when you stumble into this blog. I am happy to serve you with some answers and links to pass you on to other good sources of information and action. And I am curious about what you are looking for.

But until then – here are some of the answers that you may be looking for.

Q. When is the DTV transition taking place?

A. On the 17 of February 2009 all the analog tv-signals will be shut down and digital only tv-signals will continue to be broadcasted to your rooftop antenna. (If you use cable-TV or satellite-TV: that TV-set wont be affected).

Q. Where will it happen?

A. Throughout the whole United States at the very same day (as of now, no more information have been disclosed yet).

Q. What is the DTV transition?

A. It is the end of analog TV and the continuation for digital TV, OTA – over the air. Thats is if you use an antenna to recieve TV-signals to your TV-set. To make the transition is to get a converter box or choose any other way to recieve TV.

Q. Do I need to do something? And what should I do?

A. If you want to continue to use your TV and a rooftop antenna you should get a converter box for digital TV.

Q. Who is really affected?

A. TV sets connected to a rooftop antenna. And dont forget the TV set in your car, truck, summerhouse or trailer.

Q. What about those coupons that I think I heard of somewhere, can I get one?

A. Yes, there will be coupons to use when you buy a converter box. Check out NTIAs website.

Q. What about one of those converterboxes…?

A. No boxes in stores yet. But there will be…

If you need more answers, check out the blogroll to your right or go to www.dtvanswers.org

Anders Bjers


Today Sweden Completed Nations Transition To Digital TV

October 15, 2007

Today at 9.45 AM the Swedish Secretary of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, switched off the last analog TV-transmitter in Sweden. During two years time and in five phases, Sweden has converted all it’s analog tv-transmitters to digital. A process that has been smoother than anyone anticipated in the beginning of the transition. Allthough consumers have been able to recieve digital-tv since 1999 in Sweden, many waited until the last hour to convert. However, it is a minority left who were still using analog only reception. The main part of Swedens consumers affected by the transition has allready made the transition. During the two years many more made the step to buy a converterbox than to wait and see until the very last minute.

The transition is overall a success, both for the Swedish government, the stakeholders and the consumers. TV viewers in Sweden has more than doubled the number of channels compared to analog broadcasts and the quality is superior. Even if many complain about the pricetag for a converter box, during the first phase of the transition, the prices has decined steadily during the remaining phases. Today it is possible to buy a converter box in Sweden for $80. And the market is fairy well developed with a great selection of different brands and capabilities and the price range varies.

So, today a fairly important piece of television history was written in a corner far up north of Scandinavia. And less than 500 days from now TV- viewers in the U.S has to be as ready as Swedes are today to be able to watch TV as usual, even if the TV-land is going through changes at the same time that are hard to imagine the outcome of. How TV as the main media will be transformed in a not too far away future. That is a major piece of history to be written – and we are a part of it, right now.

Anders Bjers, in Stockholm Sweden, for the moment.