Nielsen Warns Digital Transition Will Have Greater Impact Among Minorities

Feb 15, 2008  •  Post A Comment

With the country’s transition to digital TV one year away this weekend, Nielsen is dropping some strong hints that significant challenges remain to avoid ratings shortfalls.

In a new study to be unveiled today at its annual client meeting, Nielsen warns that 13 million homes, or 10.1% of all households, would lose access to most TV signals if the transition happened now.

However, the impact in the Hispanic market would be far higher.

The African-American and Asian markets also could suffer more than the general market.

According to the study, 17.3% of Hispanic households and 11.7% of Asian households receive their TV signals over the air and would be unable to get digital TV without converter boxes.

The impact could be bigger. The study said 26.2% of Hispanic homes have at least one set that can get a digital signal but have others that don’t. That compares with 19.5% for African American households, 18.8% for Asian households and 15.2% for white households.

Nielsen also said the impact could be far more dramatic in some markets than others. In Houston, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., more than 20% of TV sets are unconnected to cable, satellite or digital. That number is less than 7% in markets including New York City, Hartford, Conn., Philadelphia and West Palm Beach and Tampa, Fla.

Eric Rossi, Nielsen’s senior manager of product leadership, said the effect of the transition on ratings depends on how many consumers act before the Feb. 17, 2009, switchover.

“We really don’t know what the ratings impact will be,” Mr. Rossi said. He suggested the industry’s “good faith” effort will get the message out to consumers, but whether consumers act in advance of the deadline remains to be seen.

Nielsen, he said, intends to track the potential impact moving forward.

Broadcast industry officials said that while the numbers are new, they had known from the beginning that the biggest battle in the transition was going to be informing minorities.

“It’s not a surprise at all. We’ve known it for some time and our campaign has been targeting them,” said Shermaze Ingram, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Broadcasters. She said the NAB prepared DTV transition spots in Spanish and other languages starting late last year.

She suggested the NAB’s surveys and anecdotal evidence suggest that consumers, including Hispanics, are becoming aware of the transition.

Telemundo is due to launch a campaign this weekend, while Univision launched its effort in October.

“Univision launched an aggressive, multimedia digital transition awareness campaign a full three months before the FCC’s schedule, fulfilling our duty to go above and beyond to serve the Hispanic community,” said Cesar Conde, executive VP-chief strategy officer at Univision.

“Our audience puts a great deal of trust in Univision to provide them with timely information regarding events in the nation that affect them, and the DTV transition is something we have always known would impact a significant portion of the country’s Hispanic community,” Mr. Conde said. “That is why we began addressing our viewers early and continue to do so often.”

Percentage of Households Completely or Partially Unready for Digital Conversion

  Completely Unready (%) One or More Unready Sets (%)
White 8.8 15.2
Black 12.4 19.5
Asian 11.7 18.8
Hispanic 17.3 26.2
Under age 35 12.3 17.3
Age 35-54 9.6 16.7
Age 55+ 9.4 16.4
Source: The Nielsen Company    


  1. Another way to slip in the sub-liminal propoganda that minorities aren’t quite as smart as “we” are!
    Come on! If hooking up a converter to continue to use your old set is too hard for Nielson and Co. to understand, I’m sure there is a ten-year-old minority kid on his block that could clue them in.

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