APTS: Seniors Out of Touch With Digital Transition

Older Americans are more likely to rely on over-the-air television service and are thus less prepared for the switch-off of analog signals in February 2009, according to a new study released by the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS).

The APTS study, based on nearly 12,000 telephone interviews conducted in first quarter 2007 by research firm CENTRIS of Fort Washington, Pa., finds that "Americans aged 65 and older are consistently more likely to receive television signals via an over-the-air antenna than are Americans under 65." According to the APTS findings, 24 percent of households with Americans 65 and older received their TV programming over-the-air, while only 19 percent of younger households were over-the-air. The study also found that only 17% of those senior citizens relying solely on over-the-air broadcasts own a digital TV, which means the rest will need to buy a digital-to-analog converter box or subscribe to cable or satellite service to continue to enjoy television programming.

The study, which APTS says is the first time it has studied the impact of the digital transition on a specific population segment, also found that only 41% of Americans 65 and older had purchased a new TV set in the past three years, compared to 55 percent of Americans younger than 65. According to APTS, that suggests that seniors may not be as exposed to "DTV transition messaging from electronics retailers" as younger Americans, since they are spending less time in retail outlets shopping for new TV sets.

“The latest findings confirm what we have long suspected—that older Americans need to be specially addressed so that they have the information they need about the digital transition," said APTS President and CEO John Lawson in a statement. "They need to know that digital over-the-air television will continue to be free, will offer them many more channels and will give them a better picture."