How to Prepare for the DTV Transition
Guest Column from the National Association of Broadcasters
Dec 17, 2007 -
Are you ready for the most significant upgrade in television since color TV? The transition from analog to digital television (DTV) represents the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced. But while nearly every new technology we use today -- including cell phones, music and radio -- has gone digital, if you are like most Americans, you may be completely unaware of the upcoming DTV transition, which will be completed on Feb. 17, 2009.
The benefits of digital television are clear: crystal clear pictures and CD quality sound; more choices through additional digital side channels – such as all weather or all traffic channels; and the capability of high-definition broadcasting.
More than 92 percent of television stations in the U.S. are already broadcasting in digital, but few consumers are aware of it or the February 2009 transition. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Broadcasters, 62 percent of Americans have seen, read or heard nothing about the DTV transition – and among the few who have, none could say when the transition would occur.
In Tennesse alone, Nielsen Media Research reports that nearly 310,000 households rely on broadcast-only television reception.
Who needs to get ready? The DTV transition doesn’t directly affect everyone – those who have a digital tuner in their television or subscribe to a cable, satellite or telephone company television service provider need not worry. But those who are impacted are impacted dramatically. You need to take action if you are one of the 19.6 million households that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasts made available through a rooftop antenna or “rabbit ears.” Even if you do subscribe to a television service provider, you may have a television set in your second bedroom or kitchen that may be impacted. Overall, the transition will directly affect more than 69 million television sets.
Fortunately, navigating the transition is easy. You have only to follow one of three simple steps to make sure your family continues to receive free, over-the-air television:
1) Purchase a DTV converter box that will convert the digital signal into analog for an existing analog television set. The DTV converter box, sometimes referred to as a set-top box, is an electronic device that makes the new digital signal viewable on an older analog television set. Converter boxes will be available for purchase in early 2008 and are expected to cost between $50 and $70. To help cover the cost of the converter box, the federal government will offer two converter box coupons, valued at $40 each, starting in January 2008. Each coupon may be used toward the purchase of a single converter box, and the coupon program will be administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. You will still need basic antennas in addition to the converter box to receive a digital signal on their analog television sets, but current antennas will work the same as before. For more information about the converter box coupon program, visit www.ntia.doc.gov.
2) Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner. Another option you may choose is to upgrade to a new television set with a built-in digital tuner. As with older sets, you will need basic antennas that provide quality reception of over-the-air analog television signals to pick up free digital broadcast programming from local stations. Before deciding to purchase a new digital TV, make sure your current TV doesn’t have a built-in digital tuner. Most sets sold in the last few years that are larger than 27 inches will likely have a digital tuner.
3) Subscribe to cable, satellite or a telephone company television service provider. All of these services will allow you to receive digital television signals on analog television sets, as long as all the sets are connected to the service. No additional equipment is required for consumers who decide to go this route.
While there is still time to decide how to navigate the digital television transition, it's a good idea to start thinking about which option will work best now. Consumers will be encouraged to apply early for the converter box coupons. If you choose to purchase a new television set with a digital tuner, take time to learn about available options and features and shop around for the best deal. Leaning toward a subscription to a cable, satellite or telephone company television service? Then spend some time looking into which of these services best suits your viewing needs and fits into your monthly budget.
The digital television transition is coming, and it means a better quality television experience for those who take one of the three easy steps above to upgrade. But consumers who don’t take those easy steps risk losing their free television programming. It pays to get prepared now for DTV.
Additional information about the DTV transition is available at www.dtv.gov or www.dtvanswers.com.