Monday, June 22, 2009

Millions Of TV Viewers Go Dark, Few Complain

Suppose someone pulled the plug and a couple of million people didn't care. That may be what the TV industry is discovering nearly a week after the U.S. broadcast industry converted from analog to digital broadcasting. Days after their analog TV signals went dark, 2.2% of U.S. households still haven't bothered to hook up to digital reception, according to estimates released Wednesday by Nielsen Co.

Even more troubling, the estimates are based on households in Nielsen's national and local TV ratings panels, which means that more than 2% of Nielsen's panel is reporting zero TV usage in the days following the conversion.

The broadcast industry had expected that the vast majority of analog hold-outs would scramble to convert to digital at the 11th hour, or after their TV sets went dark, but that does not appear to be the case, as a survey of the nation's TV stations by the National Association of Broadcasters reports only "moderate" call volume from viewers to local stations seeking help of information about receiving their digital broadcast signals.

"The call volume is considerably low given that the transition impacts an estimated 14 million over-the-air households in markets with at least one station going all-digital," the NAB said in late Friday, the day analog broadcast signals ceased to transmit.

Moreover, most of the calls received by local broadcasters were among those that had already prepared for the digital transition, but simply needed assistance in scanning digital channels with their new equipment.

"A relatively small percentage of viewers so far have needed assistance given the large number of broadcast-only households affected during the today's transition," noted Jonathan Collegio, vice president for digital television at NAB. "Importantly, much of the assistance sought by viewers has been on the relatively minor issue of scanning and re-scanning converter boxes and digital TV sets."

The NAB has not released new data on the number of households that have gone dark, but the new Nielsen data suggests millions of TV viewers either don't care, or are still perplexed about how to hook up to digital broadcast despite billions of dollars invested by the broadcast TV industry and the U.S. government to help educate them.
(source:, Joe Mandese)

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