Best Buy Pulls Analog TVs

Best Buy said Wednesday that it would no longer sell analog-only TVs in its stores and would have digital-TV-to-analog converter boxes on its shelves by early January.

After John Kneuer, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, said at a Hill hearing Wednesday that only RadioShack officially pledged to participate in the converter-box program, he later said he had gotten the word that Best Buy was committing to carrying the boxes, as well.

But Best Buy said it was going one step further, pulling all of its remaining analog sets off its shelves. Retailers got the heads-up Oct. 1, according to the company.

The company would not say how many TV's were being pulled, but a spokesman said: "Our inventory had declined to the point where we felt we could get out of the business." 

While it is no longer legal to import or ship analog sets, stores are still allowed to sell them out of existing inventory, although the Federal Communications Commission recently fined some stores, including RadioShack, for failing to post the official warning about those sets needing converters in the future.

The NTIA is in charge of overseeing the DTV-to-analog converter-box program. Viewers can start applying for up to two $40 coupons toward the boxes Jan. 2. The boxes will be needed so that analog-only sets not hooked up to cable or satellite can still receive a TV picture after the Feb. 17, 2009 (, transition to digital TV.

Kneuer said discussions were currently underway with some 23 retailers about carrying the boxes, although there is no mandate that they do so.

Some legislators are concerned that rather than stocking the $60 boxes (the coupon will cover about two-thirds of the price), retailers will try to upsell customers to more expensive DTV sets. Kneuer assured them that stores would be monitored for “bait-and-switch” tactics and appropriate sanctions would be levied.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.