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

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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