GAO Reports – Only Every Other Knows To Act

June 11, 2008

Yesterdays hearing in the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee about the status of the DTV transition revealed that 84% of Americans are now aware about the DTV transition. Although, only half of them who needs to act are prepared to do so. And, there seams to be a shortage of converter boxes.

The overall awareness are growing and campaigns are showing good results. I would expect that local TV-stations and newsmedia are doing the large part of the job to move the consumer awareness forward.

However, I believe that stakeholders need to get the message out in a more practical way – that is -what to do and also clarify who needs to act even more practical. I also wonder how local businesses are preparing to help out with installations for both consumers and local entities like housing and apartment buildings. A good example is Univisions digital Squad that is a grass root campaign in the making. Street teams will show consumers how to use converterboxes. Thats the way to do it!

Business week and Reuters reports about a possible glitch in the coupons program as well. Washington Post  also reports that many are still unprepared.

There is little talk abut the fact that some consumers need to change the set up of stations on the DTV converterbox the day after the transition, when some tv-stations will continue on a different frequency than before. That is a second action during the transition. Many consumers will thing they are done the day they have successfully made their converter box running smooth.

But GAO reports an interesting miss match. About half of the ones who needs to act don’t recognize the fact. And about 30% of people who are unaffected – are planning to act! So, there is a great mission to bring clarification to households. I wonder if there are going to be some more specific out-reach campaigns in order to bring people up to a second level of awareness.

But also, what are the actual status when it comes to converterboxes? To have empty shelves is a nightmare. In Sweden we were checking the supply of boxes constantly. I am sure the same thing happens in the U.S. But, more importantly, there was no regulation on the Swedish market when it came to providers of converterboxes as there is in the U.S. That resulted in a broad choice of products. However, that put the pressure on consumers to understand what they needed and should buy. A delicate task for many, not comfortable to buy electronic goods. Even if boxes looks pretty much the same and has a similar pricetag, they have variations on the inside that makes a difference. So, it is important to tell consumers to buy a box with the option to return it and get another brand. If there was problems with the reception in the first place a different box could work properly due to fx the sensitivity of the receiver. I think it is a mistake to limit the market and in that sense not providing a wide range of choices for consumers but more importantly – to avoid a real shortage of boxes.

/ Anders Bjers

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DTV Transition – Test Run Or Not?

March 4, 2008

New York Times reports that FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wants to do a real life DTV-test run. That is: to shut down analog signals and broadcast in digital only. Copps suggests this should be possible to do in some test-markets. Among sources reporting about this is: AP, Boston Herald, Mercury News, MSNBC and Washington Post among many many others.

I think it is a great idea. The US follows in the steps of most European countries that is or already have completed a national or semi-national transition to DTV. In most countries the transition is made in phases. Why the U.S. didn’t choose that path is a mystery.
The U.S challenge? To pick the right market for this test run.

Or is it a test? A test suggests that you switch Off the analog signals and then On again. I think that is hard. I believe that you turn off the signal and then you continue in digital only until the real transition day. Because if you re to turn on the analog signals again, few consumers would bother to get the equipment. Why? Because consumers tend to wait as much as possible to change. And also, would they, consumers, really believe that the TV signal would be shut down? In Sweden’s very first phase a majority of consumers didn’t really believe that the analog TV-signal were going to be shut down. People said -” can you really do that?”.

But when the signal was down it also sent a different message, but even more important, to the audience in the whole country: The transition to DTV will take place.

That kind of “consumer awareness” is something that the U.S. is in need of with less than a year left to the national transition.

You can read the letter from Mr Copps to FCC Chairman Martin here: Letter from Comm. M. Copps. And the reply to Commissioner Copps here: Letter from Chrm. Martin

So, stay tuned when and were a test run will take place. Bets are taken, clock is ticking..

Anders Bjers


One DTV Converter For The Whole House

March 4, 2008

Today I saw that someone had made a Google search on the subject “One converter box for the whole house”. It caught my attention because it is a logic question that many will ask when they know they need a box.

It goes something like – If I have three or four TV sets can I have one box?

When you have several TV-sets in the house but little interest in technology you probably want to make the transition as easy as possible. Creating converter boxes is no rocketscience but to figure out consumers needs and demand and make a great box, that is a challenge. A smooth transition is in many ways the same as easy-to-use technology.
A Swedish company saw the the need from households, elderly and landlords who needed a simple solution for the TV-set. The company made a “Multibox”. It works for several TV-sets simultaneously. You connect the box to the antenna, preferably up in the attic. If you have a system of cables already installed in the house you let the box be connected to that system. Little changes, no extra remote controls, something granny appreciates.

I don’t know if this would work in the U.S. but it is really interesting thought if the U.S market do have a need for a simple solution – one box for the whole house. Another smart thing is that this box still let the analog signal run through so you can continue watching that Low Power TV station that won’t transfer to digital signals.

Check out the Multibox.

/Anders Bjers

P.S. Another smart thing, with a Multibox, the VCR continues to work “as usual”… D.S.


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


Some 40% Picks Free DTV After Transition – Take II

January 18, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about a survey made by APTS, that some 43 percent of households will pick free programming in DTV after the transition. The story is also reported by TVNewsDay, Washington Post and Reuters.

But I am asking: what about those 67% that won’t pick free programming in DTV? How will they continue to watch TV? The survey doesn’t tell. OK, we can subtract another 12% that say they will choose pay-TV. But the rest – another 55% that is missing out in the information about the survey. Can someone enlighten me about this case?

Few knows why the transition is taking place. The survey finds that 77 percent don’t know that the government has ordered the transition. On the other hand, it is not only the government who wants to push for a transition. This is something a whole industry has been waiting for to do for many years. The transition is a huge promise for many stakeholders. And also for viewers. Bust most don’t know it yet.

Lawson comments on this saying: “It appears that the government’s positive message regarding the reasons for the transition has fallen on deaf ears”.

This is crucial information. FCC and NTIA has little money for national information campaigns. NAB and the DTV coalition is doing most of the work moving their audiences. That is good and appropriate. However, I think there is a need for unbiased information. Something FCC or NTIA should handle.

Even if much more is reported about the transition in mainstream media, much has to be done to bring awareness to people. In the case of Sweden I think it was mainly thanks to many different but synchronized information efforts that made the difference. Among them: households had brochures mailed home, local governments were early on in meetings about the transition, local ad campaigns were active for a long time and media had many reasons to report on the transition on a local level. Again, a transition is a hyper local event.

Most of us relate to TV as to local or regional programming. But of course, if national news channels report about the transition it will have a huge effect.

But I still am looking for a widespread debate about the “why”. The reason for a transition. That is not only about the governments role in the transition but for all stakeholder to be part of. And the debate will, in my mind, ignite discussions on all levels. A good thing to welcome. When people are engaged in a subject it is easier to become active. Thats is in this case, to check if you are affected and if – get a converter box. When they arrive…

Anybody knows when?

Anders Bjers


AP Also Reports About Small Stations Not Making DTV Transition

January 9, 2008

Two days ago I wrote a piece about small TV broadcasters that won’t make the transition to digital TV. Under the headline: “Many small stations wont make DTV transition”. They will continue to broadcast in analog. Now, why is that a big deal?

Many viewers who will get a converter box will need to think twice to get the right one if they want to continue watching the station in analog in a smooth way. That is – to switch of the converter box and continue watching analog TV. But all the converter boxes doesn’t work that way. Only three of the models approved by NTIA will work in the preferred way. This according to an article by excellent reporter John Dunbar at Associated press (AP), who has also picked up the story. As I mentioned in my blog some bloggers have been writing on the subject for some time. Washington Post also picked up the story today. As always when AP writes it will put a real spin through national media.

Great that this story floats to mainstream media and consumers attention.

Anders Bjers


Make DTV Transition A Green Step To New TV Age!

November 19, 2007

There is a match made in heaven between the transition to digital TV and the want from consumers to own flat screen TV sets. I have thought many times how great it is that flat TV sets have made a breakthrough to become a commodity in households all over the world. Or should I say the developed world? Why? Well while working with a transition you discover that viewing TV on a flat screen looks really bad the old analog way – but it is just fantastic with digital TV. So, the flat TV revolution is a great force that helps the DTV transition to be carried out faster and easier than else.

Today you can buy a decent flat screen TV for less than $ 500 at BestBuy or any other retailer. If you buy a flat screen you don’t want to use a analog signal. It looks really bad. You want to use a digital TV signal – that is just great TV.

However, with the sweep across the country due to the upcoming transition, many consumers will buy a new set with a built in DTV tuner. It will probably be a huge mass of TV sets to dispose. How can that be made in a green way? We do not want to have drifts of old TV sets made of tubes being dumped anyhow and anywhere. As Kelley Lehay is reporting at Green Daily – Good televisions never die – they get recycled.

AP is writing that TV makers are urged to be more responsible and make sure that TV-sets are recycled in a proper way. This due to upcoming transition that will make millions of sets obsolete if they aren’t connected to a converter box. The Electronics Take Back Coalition has launched a campaign to put pressure on TV makers and a special website –Take Back My TV – is dedicated to the mission. This far, only SONY USA has signed the the Take Back pledge.

If you want to (of course you want!) find a local place to recycle your old set properly – check this map. Otherwise, the set might end up in a country far away from you like China or Nigeria to be dumped there, something AP has reported about. Over time there is a great risk that it will contaminate the ground with lead or other dangerous substances. Something we don’t want to happen in our own backyard so why in someone else’s?
And we can take steps to urge TV makers to make the transition a green step to a new TV age. Send an E-mail today to TV-makers and urge them to secure a green recycling program for TV-sets in the U.S.

Speak up – and watch out – for old TV sets not dumped in a green way.

Anders Bjers