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

Advertisements

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


Exec Nervous About Supply Of DTV Converter boxes

January 9, 2008

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Best Buy Inc.’s chief executive Brad Anderson is reported to be very nervous about the supply of converter boxes.Will the retailers meet the demand? In Bussiness Week Anderson looks at the possible lack of converter boxes in store saying: “I think it’s one of the biggest risks our industry has.”

Steve Eastman, VP at Target thought more the transition as a great marketing force and about his own business, saying “From a category standpoint, I think it’s great _ it’s getting people to talk a lot about HD
and what technology they have in their home,” he said according to Washington Post.

(Once again a proof that the “HDTV hype vs DTV transition needs” will be a challenge for under-informed consumers to figure out and relate to.)

In my mind this is one of the worst scenarios you can imagine. Consumers are pushed by infomercials and government sponsored information campaigns to act on a very specific alert, if they can’t fulfill that it is a very deep crisis that will put consumers trust at stake. And the whole transition as such!

I think the background is this:

Most of the converter boxes are manufactured overseas. Parts for converter boxes is a global commodity. Many other countries like U.K and other European countries are gearing up for transitions. That means many markets are competing for converter boxes to be delivered to the domestic consumers.

We experienced in Sweden some critical moments of supply shortages of converter systems for apartment buildings but never for consumers. Some components where flown in from China on passenger airlines and rushed to factories to be assembled in a rush. One of the reasons Sweden didn’t have dips in supply, is that Sweden has the same technical DTV standard as most other countries. US has picked a different version together with Japan and South Korea. That means in my mind, U.S will have a different position to be able to have supply from manufacturers general production lines. That also creates a shrinking market of supply for the U.S.

Also, the tests for converter boxes in Sweden,were changed and made slimmer during the transition to become faster and to a lower cost. At one point they were free to speed up the process and lower the threshold to enter the market.

Converter boxes that are to be sold in the U.S is the first generation of boxes. That will always mean more problems. Look at the first generation of Iphones for example. The difference is that it is easy to update the software in an Iphone. For an elderly consumer it is pure rocket science to download new software to their converter box manually. You have to do that if the box can’t make it automatically. And boxes will probably differ on this. NTIA should demand that boxes can update software automatically. Today that is not the case. It would probably increase the cost.

Boxes that are to be eligible for the converter box coupons must meet certain rules and, I think, must be tested before they enter the market. NTIA should make sure that the testing is made as easy and swift as possible so it doesn’t become a bottleneck that delays boxes to enter the market. Today no one have asked any questions about the procedures for testing and how the boxes are made.

This is one of the most important parts of a transition to keep track of. If there is a lack of boxes in stores consumers will become very very upset.

Anders Bjers


Mobile TV Gets Go In The EU – How Will U.S Follow?

November 29, 2007

Today the European union has issued a statement that names DVB-H as the standard for mobile TV among the member countries. In the statement it reads:

Following the Council meeting today, DVB-H will be published by the Commission in the list of official EU standards. As a result, all EU Member States will have to support and encourage the use of DVB-H for the launch of mobile TV services, thus avoiding market fragmentation and allowing economies of scale and accordingly affordable services and devices. In addition, the Commission intends to work closely with the Member States in the coming months on the authorisation and licensing regimes, and to look together with the industry at issues such as service layer interoperability and right management applied to mobile TV“.

This practically makes DVB-H the mandatory standard for many stakeholders in Europe.

Nokia, the worlds leading cellphone maker, has been a driving force behind picking DVB-H as a standard, as AP reports. The Finnish company has made several models of phones with built in TV and larger screens. Tests in Sweden among else, went very well and people loved the idea of watching streaming or broadcast TV in a cellphone. Some people who took part in the trials even liked the idea to bring the phone to bed to watch late night favorite TV shows…

In the U.S, Bloomberg reports that Apple and AT&T today announced that a new version of the IPhone will soon be out with greater download capacity. Making it possible to get videos from YouTube to stream “faster” to the phone. AT&T is continuing to serve television via telephone lines, competing with cable,satellite and over-the-air TV operators.

Broadcasting TV to mobile phones requires a DTV transition to make room for frequencies, the debate about what the white space should be used for has a connection to how and who will bring TV to your mobile phone in the future. One thing that Google has discovered the potential of, and are planning to place a bid for in the upcoming auction, as reported by NY Times. Making it possible to launch a wireless device – with TV included?

But, hey, when will all this be packed together in an Iphone. TV in the Iphone would look great and connect then content to Itunes and Apple would have a really strong product. Something that keeps Jobs up in the night thinking about? Well, if you read consumers minds it wouldn’t be rockets science to figure out and deliver. The EU has taken a clear step towards creating a sound platform for mobile TV. Yesterdays FCC commissioners meeting didn’t have anything like this on the agenda. So what will be the US move when it comes to mobile TV? Can FCC create a great context to unleash the powers of giants – the TV industry, telecom operators and silicon valley will be stakeholders and creators of the future for mobile TV in the U.S. Maybe Apples Iphone will be a possible spearhead into the future.

And bookworms beware… Your spouse might want to keep the light down for the sake of, thats right, TV in bed, a different kind of sneak peek…

Anders Bjers


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


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.


Senators Bill May Put Stakeholders On A Thrill

October 3, 2007

Senator Herb Kohl (D) of Wisconsin has made a bill that could bring major changes to the DTV coupons program and also for the DTV information campaigns that is running in the U.S. The bill focuses on the elderly and how they are affected by the transition to DTV. This is reported by Broadcasting cable.com.Today it is very much up to the stakeholders how they are bringing information to consumers.  Earlier critizism has focused on the only spanish speaking audience. Since then infomercialls has started to run on major TV-networks to bring the message out.

So what help are we to be expected to be present among the elderly affected by the transition?

Senator Kohl thinks that only analog households should be able to use the coupons. Not as today when any household can use the coupon. Since the budget is limited it is a wise move. Also, information campaigns should be on TV. Well that is up and ruinning already. And not only households but also nursing homes and assisted living facilities should be included as recievers of coupons. Thats a great move in one way. But, isnt most of these facilities using cable TV? Can anyone tell me how that works? I think time is crucial here. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities would be better of if they had information sent to them or even people calling them och paying them a visit to alert them in time about the upcoming transition. for eldelry the TV is a important connection to the world. And remember they belong to the real TV-generation. For them the TV was the new thing, once bringing something really new to their lifes. We better treat them with respect.

Our experience in Sweden is that the talk and worries about the elderly that has to do something to be able to watch TV after a transition did not match the actual outcome. There have been very much less cases with elderly having serious troubles due to the transition than anyone could expect. It is hard for some to connect the converter box to a tv-set. It is harder to adjust to the fact that one more remote control is needed to make the channel selection. It is an adjustment and the products are often to complicated for people with little computer knowlede to handle. If you are used to computers you are often used to think in terms of “menus” and setup systems. We alerted the local stakeholders in more than nine months ahead of the acutal transition to make shure they had enough time to adjust and make wise decisions.

The makers of converterboxes dont usually think in simple terms. I often think that Apple should make a converterbox, because they are experts in simple user friendly formats and products. Think about it. What if the Apple TV also included a converter for DTV?  That would be neat and great I beliave. There is a lot of tuners that makes your Apple computer become even a HDTV reciever. How bout the other way around?

Anders Bjers