NAB Protests Nielsen’s Count of ‘DTV-Unready’ Households

Mar 12, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The National Association of Broadcasters has made its continuing objection to Nielsen’s analysis of the country’s DTV readiness rate more formal.
In a letter today to Nielsen Chairman-CEO David Calhoun, NAB President-CEO David K. Rehr complained that Nielsen’s methodology unfairly understates actual readiness, counting as “unready” households with DTV converter boxes that have not yet connected them, as well as households with coupons for converter boxes that haven’t yet used them to obtain a box.
NAB has been taking the same position for several months, but the letter makes the charge formally.
Nielsen’s statistics on households unready for the DTV transition have been used by both the Federal Communications Commission and Congress; they were among the reasons Congress delayed the national DTV transition from Feb. 17 to June 12.
Nielsen’s latest numbers, released last week, said 3.9% of U.S. households are totally unready for DTV as of March 1, down from 4.4% as of Feb. 15. As it has reported before, the level of unreadiness varies widely among markets and among demographic groups within a market. Albuquerque, N.M., and Texas cities Houston, Austin and Dallas have the highest levels of unreadiness.
In today’s letter, Mr. Rehr cited the number of $40 coupons for converter boxes that the government has issued and its own research for suggesting the numbers overstate potential problems.
“NAB research shows that nearly 40% of television households that have purchased converter boxes have not yet hooked them up—a significant number considering that 25,066,732 converter box coupons have thus far been redeemed. Meanwhile, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, nearly 8 million converter box coupons remain ‘active,’ which means households have received the coupons but have not yet used them to purchase converter boxes,” wrote Mr. Rehr.
“While these households may be technically unready, it is unfair and misleading to classify them as ‘completely unready,’ especially those that have already purchased converter boxes.
“This methodology and classification overstates the number of truly unprepared households, and given the weight and widespread dissemination of Nielsen research, these reports can contribute to an unnecessary level of concern that the transition is not going well among members of Congress and regulators at the Federal Communications Commission.”
As of Wednesday, the government has issued nearly 49.4 million coupons for converter boxes, of which 25.4 million have been redeemed.
Anne Kissel Elliot, VP of communications for Nielsen, said the company has been upfront about its statistics.
“We have been very clear about what our readiness updates include: We are reporting on whether people can actually receive a digital signal, not whether they are preparing to receive a digital signal,” she said. “These estimates are based on actual visits to the homes of the people in our sample. As we’ve reported, there has been a steady decline in unready households in the 10 months that we have been reporting this data.”
(1:15 p.m.: Added comment from Nielsen)


  1. Enough already! Whether it’s 4% or 14% the digital transition needs to occur without additional costly delays. The people whom aren’t prepared simply don’t care. And who can blame them? After all, TV is still the “vast wasteland” Newton Minow described in 1961.

  2. As someone who works at a TV station who has made the transition, I have a prediction: There is always going to be a percentage of people who will never get ready for anything until a change occurs. The confusion that Uncle Sam has created by extending a deadline that had been extended three times before is its own fault.

  3. The digital broadcast change in place of analogue TV is too costly, and an inferior way to reliably transmit due to easily lost or never to be received signals. It should be done away with for a less troubled system.

  4. There will always be a percentage of people who cannot receive digital signals, whether or not they are technically ready — even if they have been receiving analog from the station(s) in question — due to individual circumstances and the differences between analog and digital signals.
    But – there has ALWAYS been a percentage of technically ready households who could not receive analog signals, as well.
    Nature of the beast. Broadcasting – in any form -is not absolutely reliable. Never has been; never will be.
    It’s ridiculous that government finds it necessary to intervene in this matter. Didn’t see any guarantees for analog TV (Or radio, in any form, for that matter), when broadcasting began. You tried to get the signal(s). You failed or succeeded. And maybe you tried again. That was, is, and should be, the consumer’s responsibility.
    The converter box coupon program should have never been instituted in the first place. DTV’s or converter boxes are table stakes in the new world of TV broadcasting, just as TV’s and antennas were in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Again -solely the consumer’s responsibility. Didn’t see any TV (or antenna) coupons in those days.

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