U.S DTV Public Opinion Shifts From What To How

March 3, 2008

The past six months have been much about bringing awareness to consumers about the DTV transition. The mission for NAB and all the other stakeholders has been to awaken the general audience to the fact that TV as they know it is about to change: From analog to digital. That in combination with the offer to grab two DTV converter box coupons from NTIA.

I dare to say that the big push is almost over, in its first phase. (you cant stop this mission until the D-day is here but you need to move on at the same time with new challenges).

I believe there is a logic order in every national transition to DTV. The next step in this logic order is this:

Consumers are moving from WHAT to HOW. This is the zone we are about to enter with full force in the US right now.

New challenges are about to arise for stakeholders when consumers are starting to act on the messages they have received.

And the focus will be on the consumer from now on. What do they need, how will they really receive TV before and after the transition day, in digital quality.

And consumers will enter a new phase – the djungle of choices to make

This is a real challenge for stakeholders to become a supporting partner for every consumer entering a store to grab that converter box.

From now on and the remaining part of 2008 consumers will be forced to think through how they want to receive TV in the future. What kind of channels they think they want to watch and how much money do they want or need to spend.

And retailers will be there for them because the DTV transition offers a second season of Christmas like shopping for electronic goods. With the weakened U.S economy this transition will be a bigger thing than of the economy were strong and flourishing. Consumers will be both forced and “inspired” to spend billions of dollars on electronics.

So, the focus will be on the actions, demands and needs that consumers will have to be able to view TV as usual.

And the focus will be on retailers because that is the place were the shift from analog to digital TV really happens.

In that situation everyone will be looking for answers to common questions. The one retailer that will become the true expert on DTV will have consumers greatest confidence and that will lead to great sales.

How can I make these statements?

First, my own experience from transitions in Sweden tells this.

Second, signs are surfacing that strengthens my theory.

One is that Google search patterns has changed. During the past months most searches has been focusing on “DTV answers”. As a reaction to all the PSA:s put out by NAB and stakeholders.

A few weeks back people tend to search for more practical answers. I would say that only a rough third are searching for “DTV answers“. The rest is looking for information about converter boxes, antennas, reception and other kind of DTV related information.

Another sign is that reporting among local newspapers has changed a bit. From the big WHAT to HOW. Washington Post blogger Rob Pegoraro writes about his a first hand experience of the shift.

A third sign is that new stakeholders has appeared on the scene. One of them is U.S. PIRG – the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups.

Recently U.S. PIRG released the results from a national survey about retailers, consumers and the DTV transition. The titel of the survey is: Mixed Signals: How TV Retailers Mislead Consumers on the Digital Television (DTV) Transition

With the help of secret shoppers U.S. PIRG reports:

# 81% of sales staff provided inaccurate information about converter boxes.
# 78% of sales staff provided inaccurate information about the coupon program.
# 42% of sales staff provided inaccurate information about the transition date.
# 20% of sales staff tried to up-sell surveyors to digital TVs or upscale converter boxes.

This is a core challenge for stakeholders: To get sales staff to understand the real effects of the DTV transition.

That is: local issues and implications.

Examples:

– What about consumers reception.

– How to connect a converter box to a range of other equipment that consumers have started to use with TV sets.

– How to convert battery powered TV sets.

– How to continue to receive Low Powerd Broadcasters even if the don’t broadcast in digital after the transition (they do not need to)

– and other practical or semi-practical questions.

I will get back with some practical suggestions on how to manage this. But the shift is here and this is were the real work begins to make the transition a smooth experience for consumers.

Best / Anders Bjers

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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