Earlier DTV Transition Than Expected – Possible Says FCC

January 3, 2008

In some markets there might be possibilities for earlier transition to digital TV than the February 17 2009 deadline. FCC has softened the rules, that will make it easier for brodcasters who wants to terminate their alanog broadcast before the actual transition day, reported by Washington Post and Reuters. That would make them test-pilots for the rest of the country. Commissioner Michael Copps said ” that he and the other commissioners were discussing the idea of conducting “one or more” digital transition tests around the United States before the nationwide deadline”, according to Washington Post.

Copps also said “We need some of that real-world experience here. Why in the world aren’t we doing that? I am encouraged that the chairman and my colleagues are willing to sit down now and begin exploring the idea of one or more DTV demonstration projects around the country.”, according to Information Week.

The new rules let broadcasters make phased transitions. That means they are able to tell their audience that they will broadcast in analog for some weeks more on some channels meanwhile the majority of their channels went digital only. That will give viewers who are not aware of the transition a strong message that the transition is for sure.

The first questions would be – where and when?

It is a smart move in many aspects. First, it would bring confidence to the transition itself if a local transition was made in a successful way. Even if it wouldn’t become a 100 percent success, it would create experiences for the stakeholders. Second thing, it is a great PR move. A local “pre-transition” would create a great amount of national attention. This in itself would move many more to understand that a digital transition is underway and will be carried out on national basis. There would be a national media cover for an event like this. An event that would bring unprecedented awareness to consumers in the U.S.

Even if it’s seams as a bald thought in the U.S, it only follows the models for transitions made overseas.

So the question is where would a pre-transition take place? I would pick a place that is isolated with a small but big enough community that are affected. In that way you will have real results but on a local scale. And if it would backfire in any way, other communities wouldn’t be affected by the transition. Alaska maybe? Or somewhere in mid-west? The word is that pre-transitions would suite markets were analog viewers are negligible.

And when? I would guess that it is hard to do it before summertime and you need to keep well away from the Presidential elections in November. And also you need to think about weather conditions. So there might be a time slot between December and January. But that would bring a chance pre-transition only down in the southern parts of the U.S. So maybe June would be perfect. Three months of converter box sales and great weather anywhere and still some time ahead for the elections.

I would pick a place like in Wyoming or Nebraska. An isolated community but large enough to draw national attention, and close enough to an airport to fly people and media in. And stay way from any border.

It is critical for lawmakers that pre-transitions goes well. But it would also soften the pressure on the actual D-day, D for digital. Copps has an important and crucial point in my view.

Anders Bjers

P.S In Sweden we did the transition in five phases during three years of time to complete a national transition and also, after each phase one channel were broadcast in analog during two weeks time to let people who didn’t make the transition in time to have some channel left in analog, as a precaution and service. D.S

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IBM To Manage DTV Transition Coupons For NTIA

August 16, 2007

IBM will, together with three partners, manage the DTV transition coupons program for NTIA.

In a flash newsrelease via PR Agency CrosbyVolmer, NAB comments NTIAs choice. “This is an important step in a process that will bring digital television (DTV) to all Americans,”says Jonathan Collegio, Vice President of the NAB’s digital television transition unit.

NTIA Administrator John Kneuer stated earlier: “This is a major milestone toward implementing a successful Coupon Program to ensure the switch from analog to digital television is completed smoothly and as planned,” according to PC magazine. CNNMoney / DowJones reports that IBM will work together with Corporate Lodging Consultants, Epiq Systems and Ketchum. Multichannel news reports that the contract is worth $120 million. IBM’s John Nyland concludes in a pressrelease that “A complex initiative like this requires innovative thinking, leading technologies and cooperation among retailers, broadcasters and government agencies”.

I think it is a very interesting and surprising move! IBM will have the capability to manage the coupons program logistically but will it have the brains to come up with the smart ways to bring the information out to the ones who is in need? Most needy of the converter box coupons will probably are the ones with low-tech tools and knowledge. So IBMs challenge will be to go from high-tech to low-tech with a high-tech message… And it has to be in sync with the DTV coalition’s campaigns. Confusion is high and consumers are in most need with clear and well designed messages to be able to grasp the value of the coupons.

Let’s keep track of how IBM will carry this one out…

More comments on this will follow…

Anders Bjers


FCC Seeks The Publics Comments On Digital TV Switch

August 2, 2007

This week belongs to the Federal Communications Commission, FCC. For the first time FCC wants to open it´s doors to the public, regarding digital TV. FCC seeks comments from everyone who cares on the proposed DTV education initiatives for the transition to DTV. Ad to that FCC member Adelstien´s call for a DTV transition task-force during yesterdays ACA meeting in Monterey. Last but not least – FCCs vote on the auction of spectrum in the 700-megahertz band.

I think FCC goes out of it´s way to listen to the audience, stakeholders and everyone involved or engaged in the transition -while there is time. Or is FCC seeking to refine it´s own role in the transition?

Here is what FCC is looking for better understanding of:

The NPRM seeks comment on proposals to help convey the timing, logistics and benefits of the DTV transition to consumers, including:
• Broadcaster Public Service Announcements, other Consumer Education Requirements, and Reporting
• Notices in Cable, Satellite, and other MVPD Bills
• Notices from Consumer Electronics Manufacturers
• Employee Training by Consumer Electronics Retailers
• Adjustments to the DTV.gov Partners Program


This can be viewed as the most critical parts for the moment of the U.S DTV transition. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this is a great effort but very formal. Why don´t FCC invite stakeholders, NABs TV Coalition and everyone else to a physical meeting in D.C. Use technology to have a real interactive and engaged meeting to listen in to everyone’s ideas and proposals to make the transition successful and deliver the comments that FCC asks for?

The second thing that comes to my mind is the question if this is what FCC wants to have more knowledge about – isn´t this very much the same that NAB and the DTV Coalition is preparing to launch?

The third thing is that nothing is mentioned about information campaigns as such and budgets. Two fundamental parts of the transition.

Another concern that may be important is that the DTV information campaigns will run during a election year. Usually it might be hard to compete with the audiences attention when political ads and news events are taking place.

From experiences made in Germany, U.K and Sweden suggests that much of the work in the beginning of the process leading up to transitions, was focused on getting the stakeholders and the industry to work together. In Sweden it took about a year to get the stakeholders to agree and work together on unified messages, campaigning efforts as well as shared budgets. In UK there is a huge organization working with different parts of the transition since a couple of years back. They have even sorted out what might happen with all the litter, old TV-sets and how to take care of it all.

A year ago I visited NAB, FCC and stakeholders in D.C. When asked if there was or would be some kind of a hub that would manage the U.S transition – everyone tilted their heads, had a short silent look at me and said: “Well you know United States doesn´t work like that”. I guess one proof of that is FCC now seeking to refine its role in the transition as such.

Anders Bjers


Public DTV Information Campaigns to Start In December ´07

July 26, 2007

Today’s hearing in the U.S. Senate put some limelight on the event that will affect about 20 million U.S households. Good news is that NAB will launch public announcements airing in December, according to LA Times. Mainstream media reported from the hearing focusing on the deep concerns that Senators expressed today.

Reuters headlines its piece: Many in the dark about TV switch: U.S. lawmakers.

Fox News carries the story from AP headlined: Senators Worried About TV ‘Train Wreck’

The L.A Times business reporter Jim Puzzanghera write that Senators decries the present conditions among TV-viewers. The efforts that are made this far by the Government and Government agencies are to few and very late. Senators raised concerns that voters/ consumers would call them and not the stakeholders in the TV industry if the transition backfires.

Reactions in the blogosphere follows the same beat. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica writes about the problems seniors will face because of the transition. Since the group above 50 watches TV more than 5.5 hrs a day and their generally low understanding of the transition and converter boxes. Anderson writes that “you have the conditions for a perfect storm”. He also writes ads:”Disgruntled seniors are unlikely to storm Washington with torches and pitchforks, but they are a powerful voting bloc”.

Multichannel News reporter Ted Hearn, writes that the DTV transition scares Senator McCaskill (D-Mo). She finds the transition is already tomorrow by Governmental standards. And the Senator ads “There is no anger that comes close to the anger of an American who can’t get television.” writes Hearn.

NAB estimates that there are about 69 million analog TV-sets in U.S. households that can go dark on February 17, 2009. NTIAs converter box coupons will only suffice for 33.5 million converter boxes with the budget that are expected. NAB also estimates that 60% of consumers are not aware of the transition to DTV as of today. But even these figures varies among stakeholders.

I find it remarkable that the facts about TV viewers still are unclear. It is one thing if people know about the transition date as such. But the core challenge to manage is to make consumers understand what to do or if they are affected at all. For me this hearing is a benchmark for the status of the transition. I really don’t expect that politiceners will know the details of the transition. And I do really wonder what the politiceners can come up with to turnaround the present state of the transition.

In my view there is no one else better suited for the mission than the TV industry. They have the real ways and means to make the transition smooth and successful.

Their secret tool?

Anders Bjers