FCC chmn Kevin Martin is "optimistic" that Time Warner Cable and other cable operators serving Wilmington, NC, the FCC’s 1st DTV test market, will commit to carrying local broadcasters’ signals in digital and analog when the area goes all digital Sept 8. Indeed, TW said Thurs that the transition will be seamless for its customers. "If your television is hooked up to cable, there is nothing you need to do before the September 8 changeover," a spokesman said. "We are also committed to working closely with local broadcasters and other cable providers who serve the Wilmington area to ensure a smooth transition in September." DISH said it will ensure that its sub-$40 converter box, "DTVPal," will be available in the area well before the Sept 8 conversion. The Wilmington market has a pay TV penetration rate of more than 90%, with about 7.5% of the 167K HHs relying solely on over-the-air TV. FCC staff determined that only about 7 markets were technically capable of serving as a test market, and Wilmington was the only one thus far to volunteer. Some have raised concern because Wilmington is on the coast and the test falls during hurricane season. Martin said he’s still hopeful broadcasters in other markets will come forward. FCC commish Michael Copps initiated the push for a test before the Feb 17 national transition, something the cable industry has supported. Wilmington broadcasters acknowledged that there would be some disruption but said that would occur whether the switch happened in Sept or Feb. There will be a ton of messaging in the market, including FCC PSAs, but it’s the "2nd and 3rd sets where we’re really going to have to do a lot of work" to reach, said Raycom‘s Paul McTear.

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