Last week’s Foundation for American Communications (FACS) tele-seminar about the digital transition was a barrage of statistics and reassurances from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Electronics Association. Designed to educate the mainstream press, the focus was on consumer awareness.

Estimates as to how many solely over-the-air households there are vary between 13 and 19 million. The good news is that consumer awareness has nearly doubled since a year ago, said Marcellus Alexander, NAB executive vice president, television.

According to NAB statistics, in August 2005, the percentage of broadcast-only households aware of the transition was in the 25 to 30 percent range. In May 2007, the number had grown to about 41 to 42 percent. November 2007 is when heavy promotion began, and by January 2008, NAB estimates 83 percent of broadcast-only households knew the transition was coming.

“That is a good number, but it’s not where we need to be in terms of making sure everybody knows what they need to do,” Alexander said.

From the broadcasters’ side, NAB members and non-members have pledged $1 billion for a continued consumer education program, including crawls and snipes, a 30 minute-educational video, Web sites, a speaker’s bureau, and a DTV road show.

“Each household will be exposed to the message 642 times before the Feb. 17 transition. (It is a) massive undertaking to reach people wherever they are with this information,” Alexander said. “In large part, our business is at stake,” he added. Coupons rolling out The educational campaign provides information about what consumers can do to prepare for the transition, including requesting up to two $40 digital converter box coupons per household from the NTIA.

Since January, 7 million households have applied for 13.3 million coupons. Nearly 11.2 million coupons have been mailed, and 1.3 million coupons have been redeemed as of May 12, Alexander said. Applications are rolling in at approximately 70,000 per day.

According to the CEA, 48 percent of over-the-air households will purchase a converter box. Alternatively, 7 percent said they would subscribe to a cable or satellite service, and 12 percent said they would purchase a digital TV set.

“We believe digital television will be a robust and popular product to come,” said Jason Oxman, CEA senior vice president industry affairs. Between 1998 and 2007, 81.7 million digital TV sets were sold in the United States. Estimates are that 32 million will be purchased in 2008, 36 million in 2009, and 38 million in 2010. Multiple industries Not represented on last week’s call were members of the cable industry, but multiple industries are collaborating to get the message across to consumers.

Founding members of the DTV Transition Coalition include not only CEA and NAB, but also the NCTA and the following other organizations:

• Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV)
• Association of Public Television Stations (APTS)
• Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition (CERC)
• Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
• LG Electronics

The DTV Transition Coalition, founded on Feb. 28, 2007, includes a total of nearly 200 member companies and organizations.

– Monta Hernon

The Daily

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