DTV delay? Do the math

30 January 2009

The Senate voted earlier this week to unanimously postpone the upcoming transition from analog-to-digital television broadcasting by four months to June 12. Although the House under newly-elected Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-CA, originally voted against the Senate bill, the House is expected to pass the legislation after some minor tweaks are made early next week. The main concern for lawmakers is the 6.5 million U.S. households according to the Nielsen Co. that could see their signals go dark next month if the transition is not postponed.


Now, I like to watch TV as much as anyone and I too would be upset if I couldn’t tune-in to see Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock each week, but we’re talking about a very small percentage of overall U.S. households (approximately 5.7% according to Nielsen) that will go dark in a couple of weeks and a delay that would come at a very high-cost to everyone. I have my own fuzzy math here, but if you will…


The U.S. government census bureau estimated in 2007 that there were almost 112 million households in the U.S. In the case of the DTV transition, we’re talking about 6.5 million households going dark. Out of those 6.5 million estimated to rely on the use analog TV signals, how many would we honestly estimate don’t even turn on their TVs on a regular basis? Let’s face it, there’s a small percentage of this country, and we’ve all met one or two in our lifetimes, who for whatever reason couldn’t even tell you who is president of the U.S. or who Michael Jordan is if you stopped and asked them. There’s a percentage of household out there that just don’t tune-in period.


The other issue is that for people that aren’t ready now, what makes the legislators believe that they’ll be ready June? I’m willing to put myself out there and say there’s a small percentage of that 6.5 million that still won’t do anything until the TV screen actually goes dark. Let’s face it, there’s a small percentage of this 6.5 million which for whatever reason won’t walk down to Best Buy and get the converter box until they absolutely have to.


I’m doing really rough math here, but if you take just those two groups and subtract them from the 5.7% Nielsen estimates, we’re really talking about a very, very small percentage of people who will lose out. Again, I empathize with anyone who might lose their signal, but is it really worth the $22 million PBS estimates it would cost broadcasters to delay the DTV transition, on top of increased funding that Congress would need to spend to prolong the consumer education program and issue more coupons?


If they were really concerned with getting viewers to switch, they should simply move up the date to Feb 1 so that people tuning into the most watched television event in the country might actually start to get the picture. Go Cardinals.


For more info check out the FCC webpage on the DTV transition:


Disclosure: Hill & Knowlton represents some companies that do not currently support a DTV delay

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One Response to “DTV delay? Do the math”

  1. Collective Conversation » Tech & The District » Blog Archive » DTV Transition Delay Bears Fruit After all

    [...] as many people would have been without TV had the transition not been delayed, I still stand by my previous post on this blog that we are still only talking about a very small percentage of people and that the confusion could [...]

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