Digital TV switch will hit 13 million households

Mon Feb 18, 2008 10:40pm EST
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By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Nielsen Media Research has estimated that more than 13 million U.S. households are ill-prepared for the digital TV conversion next year.

Those households include more younger people than older, and more black viewers than white or Asian. Latinos will be hit hardest as they use over-the-air TV more than any other group.

On February 18, 2009, all TV broadcasters will be required to shut off their analog signal and broadcast solely on the digital spectrum. That leaves millions of over-the-air viewers with a choice: Buy a digital converter box or face losing TV. Beyond the households who solely rely on over-the-air TV, Nielsen estimated that 6 million households have at least one TV that needs an analog signal even if other sets in the house might be connected to cable or satellite.

Nielsen is among those in the TV industry who are working to ease the digital transition, which could disenfranchise millions of consumers who don't get converter boxes (or subscribe to cable or satellite) and could lead to shifts in viewing for networks and stations. Nielsen has been looking into this issue for 18 months and reported its findings Friday at its annual client meeting in Las Vegas.

The best-prepared market is New York, which has 3% of its households relying on over-the-air signals. Portland, Ore., has the most (22%). Los Angeles falls toward the end of the spectrum, with 16% of its households depending on analog.

Other ill-prepared markets include St. Louis; Milwaukee; Albuquerque, N.M.; Houston; Salt Lake City; and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>A woman stands in front of flat screens at an exhibition stand of the IFA 2007 consumer electronics fair in Berlin August 30, 2007. An estimated 21 million households have TV sets that receive only over-the-air signals, and about 14 million of those homes rely solely on analog TVs, according to Nielsen Media Research. For viewers who don't upgrade to digital-ready TVs or set-top converters, February 18, 2009, will begin with a blank screen. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke</p>