The Imminent (H)DTV Confusion

January 3, 2008

Many people I have spoken with about the transition often confuse or mix the transition to digital TV with HDTV programing. As we know, HDTV has little to do with the actual transition to digital TV. However, I think this is one if the major challenges for stakeholders: to try to separate HDTV from DTV.

I really don’t believe they will succeed. Here is one fresh example from a headline in the consumers section at local broadcaster CBS 5 covering San Francisco, Oakland and San José: $40 HDTV Conversion Coupons Available Jan. 1

As we have seen the past few days the news from NTIA and yesterdays AP article by John Dunbar, headlined “Feds share coupons to help TV transition” that has spread to several hundreds of media outlets throughout the United States. And the requests for coupons have been enormous, initiated in large extent by the media coverage.

But this is also one of the signs of how hard it is to create awareness among consumers and sometimes among stakeholders themselves. I guess people would love to have HDTV coupons since HDTV is the hottest way to view TV these days.

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 DTV Transition – A Giant Awakening

August 23, 2007

The past few weeks have been more active concerning the DTV transition here in the U.S than in a long time. News reports have been spurred by hearings in the senate, FCC activities and more websearches and mediafiles about digital TV.

There is a giant about to awaken in the US. And the giant are consumers today confused and still in the shade about the forthcoming transition. One thing that Sweden had to avoid was the elections in November 2006. To campaign about a DTV transition along with powerful political campaigns would be too hard. And among else, mixing DTV switches and elections isn’t great for politics if a transition should by any means backfire. Interestingly enough the U.S DTV transition will take place when the new President will have taken office in 2009. But much of the campaigns will roll during the election campaigns.

The U.S DTV transition lacks stickiness in media today. Om Malik, well known blogger at GigaOm out of Silicon Valley, writes today under headline: Do You Know DTV? He says: By now you all know that sometime next year analog television will be replaced by all-digital television broadcasts, a move that is likely to impact about 21 million viewers.” As we know, people in general don’t have much of a clue about the DTV transition. Commentators on the blog don’t bother much. As well as media in general. Even if Sanjay Talwani at TV Technology.com wrote a great story about consumers who wants to know more about the transition. Here is seven thoughts about how to make the transition more interesting.

What can NAB, the DTV coalition and the Government do to make the transition more sticky?

1. First, the U.S Government should stick with the low budget.

Why? Because money isn’t everything when it comes to information from the Government about DTV. I think monumental campaigns launched by the Goverment can make older people, in a greater extent affected, more suspicious about the transition. DTV might sound as something you can monitor. Keep the Government out of the transition, except in the means to bring out a basic campaign to work as a launchpad for everyone else. Let the stakeholders push the message, after all it is all about TV. The Government may monitor the transition and step in if it backfires, not be in the driver’s seat. And save taxpayers money. Let the motivated stakeholders step in and make the change. It is my belief that the U.S consumers work in a different way than U.K consumers. And the U.K have put in far to much money into DTV campaigns.

 

2. Coordinate the market and stakeholders.

The market and stakeholders then have to act. Experiences from Europe tells that official campaigns will have an impact but mostly the retailers, campaigns for converter boxes and media coverage will bring most of the knowledge to consumers. A coordinated unified DTV message can bring a monumental impact on consumers.

3. Focus on the transition as a step to simply update your television.

What do you get when you switch to DTV? No one knows that today I would say. No one talks about it either. Consumers will be positively surprised

Also, even if cable TV dominates the consumer’s ways of receiving TV – DTV OTA is a cheaper and a more for the money way to bring basic DTV to your living room than most other services. Hey it´s free! And also in HD! Consumers will love the fact. And they can get it without subscribing to a monthly service. Saving money is always good, especially when you get more than before.

4. Who is the face of the transition?

Someone or a few personalities can “face” the audience and bring a clear message out. Result, the transition can “connect” to consumers. It is very much easier for anyone to understand the transition if someone explains it in person – on screen, of screen, anywhere and everywhere. Yesterday there was a sudden break in the flow of commercials  on TV. Former Presidents Clinton and Bush s.r appeared. Their message: For small companies, kids and the country to be prepared in the event of an emergency,it’s get ready America month. A message made in a minute to promote ready.gov. For older people unsure and wary about the transition there is a need of leadership, by a person or a team. Clinton and Bush made that effort in a great way. Who will step in their shoes for the DTV transition. Today that feels like a kamikaze job but it may turn out to be the most revarding.

5. Bring on the market.

Converter boxes should be in stores already,don’t you think. 92% of all analog TV stations are already broadcasting in DTV. Why must people wait to get a box? That is a mystery to me…
In an interview by Harry A. Jessell in TV Newsday states that NTIA will wait to send DTV coupons until converter boxes are in stores. Marc Pearl, Executive Director at CERC thinks that converter boxes will be on the shelves in early 2008.

The boxes can make the transition practical and comprehendeble for consumers. Today the transition is an abstract event far away from daily deeds. And we like to buy and talk about things don’t we?

6. People want more broadband content.

According to a survey made by IBM, consumers are using their TV set less than ever. Instead consumers are using computers and pods with broadband to get information and TV content. As we all know, broadband is the future. But OTA DTV might have a place as easy low-cost DTV. Compared to heavy tech broadband usage. New research in the U.K confirmes this according to BBC. Until broadband usage is as seamless and easy as using a telephone or a water boiler…

Everything else goes digital. Someday maybe even the water boiler…

So, if the transition updates todays analog TV to better and cheaper quality than cable- or satellite TV – the money might be spent on broadband instead. Isn’t that a winner for everyone?

7. Use DTV information tickers in the TV screen. Its a killer app to make people wake up.

 

Anders Bjers

P.S Not only a giant awakening, also a giant blogpost 🙂 D.S


TIVO + HDTV Antennas – Check the DTV Pro’s Comments

August 13, 2007

Today a comment came in about HDTV antennas and TIVO’s. About 8 percent* of TIVO owners are using their TIVO with a antenna. Probably more consumers will discover the TIVO as a great option compared with cable and satellite TV. Check out a site called HDTV Antenna Guide – to learn more, if you will.

Anders Bjers

* unconfirmed source.


DTV Antennas – Sharing Consumer Advice From Professionals

August 12, 2007

The otherday a comment on this blog came in. It is a long list of advices about the state of antennas in the U.S concerning the forthcoming transition. Here’s some insights from Dennys Antenna Service, Ithaca, MI.

Disclaimer: The following is not my words or information. But I want to forward them because of the fact that they concieve the many options and facts that are to face consumers in a practical way when they are about to make changes to recieve TV over the air in digital. Please feel free to comment on the advices or ad your own advices. Use the comment form below. I will aprove comments before they appear.
Please enjoy and thank you Denny’s for sharing your knowledge

Anders Bjers

Consumer interest in free over the air digital- HD TV is definitely on the increase. The number of visitors to our web site http://www.dennysantennaservice.com has skyrocketed over the past year, mainly do to the introduction of free over the air digital – HDTV.
Choosing the proper TV antenna for a particular location is the main issue for most. Many consumer’s have a tendency to purchase antennas that are to small to do the job, digital reception is an all or nothing proposition, you’re going to want a strong signal. Also, there is a misconception that all digital – HDTV broadcast signals are on the UHF band (14-69) Currently it’s true, many broadcaster’s are transmitting their digital signals on UHF, because much of the VHF band (2-13) is currently being used to broadcast analog TV signals. However, when the digital transition is complete on February 17th of 2009, the date set when broadcasters will turn off their analog signals, things will change. There are only a handful of broadcast locations across the U.S. that have plans to remain 100% on the UHF band, most areas will have both VHF and UHF digital stations. This means if you purchase a UHF TV antenna now, chances are you may loose the ability to receive a portion of your digital channels in the future. Some areas already have VHF digital stations.

My best advice is to purchase a TV antenna that is large enough to be certain it can easily receive all of the digital broadcast signals in your area, even during poor reception conditions. The antenna should be VHF/UHF capable, unless you are absolutely certain all of your stations are currently UHF, and will remain UHF after the digital transition is complete. To determine the channel number your area digital stations currently broadcast on now, and the channel number they plan to broadcast on after the 2009 analog shutdown date, visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-06-1082A2.pdf. When you visit this site, start by finding your state and then the city where your area stations are located. The channel number that appears in the first column is the current digital channel number of that station, the second column is the current analog channel number, and the third column is the tentative final channel number destination. The third column is the channel number where the station plans to permanently broadcast their digital signal. VHF channels are 2 – 13 and UHF are 14 – 69. If your not sure where or what stations are available in your area, visit www.antennaweb.org. This is a great site to visit, it will provide the city location of the stations in your area and much more.


USA Today Focus On Downside of DTV Transition – Analyze This

August 7, 2007

Mainstream media is starting to pitch up the pace reporting about the DTV transition. USA Today is a recent example. Mike Snider, a reporter in the Tech section, has made both a Q&A and an article about the DTV transition. But he really gets a few things on the wrong foot. As readers of the web edition has made comments on. It will be common among reporters to not get facts and things right about the transition, it is complex but really not rocket science.

The focus of the article is on the downside of the transition. This is really the “safe side” reporting. It is easier to be critical then “fair and balanced”. However, this article is really confusing. It is unclear what downside Mr. Snider is referring to in the headline. Is it that DTV has been focused on HDTV? (It is really two different sides of the same coin). Is it that analog broadcast will be shut of? (They will, but it sounds like they will disappear – they won’t. Broadcast continues as usual but in digital only.) Is the downside that lawmakers are worried? (They are, but is that really bad? They should track this issue and the TV industry is really behind the schedule).

Mr. Snider writes: “An old TV should be connected to satellite, Cable or an add-on digital tuner”. Why not use the word converter box? Let’s help the audience by using the most common definition. And, there are more options. How bout using a TivoHD? It works great with an antenna. Also there are DVD recorders with built in DTV tuners. More is that there should be a greater selection of converter boxes on the shelves. In Europe there are more than 100 different models on the market in countries like the U.K, Germany and Sweden. Will the U.S get there?

It is great that USA Today writes about the transition. But I think that NAB, FCC, NTIA and other stakeholders should bring more basic knowledge to reporters to grab before they write. It’s really for the consumer’s best. Media will be the strongest force when it comes to bring awareness to consumers. It is really a steep learning curve for most reporters. But the DTV transition shouldn’t be presented as rocket science – it’s not.

NABs newsletter links to the article discussed above but headlines it a bit different: Plenty of work remains before DTV deadline

Interestingly enough Mr. Sniders Q&A is more to the point. Headlined “Is your television ready for the DTV transition?“. A more practical guide for consumers. NABs newsletter don’t link to this article though.

Nobody will miss analog TV. DTV broadcast bring much better picture quality, more channels, new services and possibilities to develop the TV as a medium.

One problem is that very few have experienced DTV, in the U.S, with an antenna and a converter box. It is easier to focus on the downsides only then, but there is really more to report about than the fuzz, confusion and low awareness. But I guess the uncertainty that lack of information brings, makes the day for the downsides of the transition.

Anders Bjers