Digital Conversion: Many Americans Won't Pay To Play

Digital conversion may not be a boon for cable operators and satellite distributors: Most current analog TV users do not want to pay for TV programming after the switch to digital year.

According to a recent study by the Association of Public Television Stations, 62% of the 14.5 million analog TV homes prefer to continue with free broadcast TV rather than buy cable network programming. They will even spend money to buy an analog-to-digital converter box to do it.

The 62% number is up considerably from November 2006, when a study revealed that only 28% of over-the-air households would get a converter box or digital TV set. The transition to all-digital TV signals takes effect February 17, 2009.

The study said only 10% would opt for cable, satellite, or telco service to receive digital television.

There is good news for the Federal Communications Commission and other federal agencies; the study says consumer awareness of the transition has increased to 76.4% in February 2008 versus 51% in November 2007.



Federal agencies and TV stations have made a major marketing push to get the word out about the change to digital. The study also notes that 55%, or 23 million households, correctly identified the year when the DTV transition will occur.

But may TV households are still in the dark.

Over 17% of over-the-air consumers don't know what they'll do when the change to digital happens, with another 10% saying they'll do nothing. Concerning all TV households, 75% say they don't know why the transition is taking place at all. This has climbed from 58% six months ago.

A converter box coupon program, launched in January and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has been growing. The NTIA reported that it has received requests for 8,067,272 coupons from 4,267,828 households.

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