DTV Switch Getting Less Scary, Month by Month

Mar 22, 2009  •  Post A Comment

If Americans continue to prepare themselves at the current rate for the June 12 switch to all-digital television signals, the number of homes that aren’t ready by the deadline could be quite small, vindicating the Obama administration’s decision to push back the transition.
Last week, the Nielsen Co. said around 4.1 million homes, or 3.6% of U.S. households, were completely unready for the digital transition as of March 15. But that number was 916,000 lower than it was on Feb. 15.
For TVWeek’s comprehensive coverage of the digital television transition, visit the DTV Switch Navigator page.
With nearly three months to go until the transition, and nearly a million homes a month joining the rolls of the DTV-ready, fewer than 1 million could be unprepared when analog broadcasts end. A last-minute rush for analog-to-digital converter boxes and a rush to cable or satellite services could leave even fewer viewers than that watching static.
Stations’ gradual market-by-market shift to digital may enhance efforts to get the country ready. The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that 158 additional stations are looking to go digital before June 12. They join 637 outlets that already have made the jump to digital-only broadcasting. In total, 44% of the country’s stations will be digital-only before the deadline.
A majority of the latest group of stations announced were public television and independent stations, with some standouts owned by larger station groups, including Fox-owned Philadelphia station WTXF.
WTXF stands out because Fox, along with CBS, NBC, Telemundo and ABC, agreed in February to air dual analog and digital signals on their owned-and-operated stations until June 12.
A WTXF spokesman said the station appears on the FCC’s newest transition list because it will lower its analog coverage area to 87% of its current area as of May 22.
The spokesman said the FCC required stations that are lowering their analog coverage to less than 90% to submit a notice to the government. WTXF will be airing both analog and digital signals until June 12, he said.
Philadelphia stands as the second most-prepared market of the top 56 in the nation as of February, with only 1.8% of households being “completely unready.” African Americans in Philadelphia are the largest segment of the city’s population unready for DTV, with 4.8% of those households listed as “completely unready.”
Despite gains in overall readiness, minorities nationwide still lag in preparedness for the digital transition. Nielsen said 6.6% of African American households across the country were DTV-unready as of March 15, down just 0.1% from March 1. And 6.1% of Hispanic households are unready, while 4.4% of Asian households are unready nationally.
Among white households, 2.9% are unready as of March 15, compared with 3.2% on March 1.


  1. The reason that so many people are getting ready for DTV is not a vindication of the Obama delay. It is because stations like the Sinclair Group decided, with FCC blessings, to go ahead and transition of February 17. As we have received calls from viewers to get their converter boxes, or new DTV sets operational, we have helped them to get not just our channels, but all channels available in the market. This is true all across the country. This benefits even the stations that didn’t transition yet. We have done the work for them, on behalf of viewers.

  2. Again, it wasn’t the Obama administration that wanted the delay. It was the broadcast networks. THEY’RE the ones not ready for the digital transition, not the government.

  3. Vindication for Obama? And I suppose his decision to approve earmarks in violation of his campaign promises will be vindicated as well.
    Viewers would have shifted to DTV right in February just as quickly without the government intrusion, if not quicker. Give credit where credit is due. And that’s not with the Administration.

  4. Ok… seems Obama can’t have credit for doing anything right by some Bush folks… but facts are facts…
    February is a lousy time to discover your antenna is insufficient and go climbing on a slippery or icy roof… so Bush’s FCC was wrong. Once again catering to the industry rather than the customers.
    The Bush Admin’s main reason for choosing when they originally had was to have it out of the way for March madness… the congress and FCC under Bush thought that would matter more than folks falling off their roofs.
    Based on polling and other facts it seemed prudent to wait… unfortunately because the tv stations were prepared for Bush’s ignorant time frame the delay will be costly. Which is bad… not as bad as not waiting though.
    How is this success not creditable to President Obama?

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