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CEA: 22% of Analog TV Owners to ‘Do Nothing’ for DTV

New York -- About 22% of Americans who currently own analog TV sets plan to simply “do nothing” when local broadcast stations are required to stop transmitting analog signals in February 2009, according to a study conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association.

CEA senior director and regulatory counsel Julie Kearney, speaking on a panel at the Future of TV conference here, said the association surveyed consumers with analog TVs who receive only free over-the-air broadcasts and asked what they plan to do to prepare for the digital TV transition.

About 22% said they would subscribe to a cable or satellite service, while 33% said they would use a government-issued $40 coupon to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box to continue receiving over-the-air broadcast signals. Another 23% plan to purchase a new digital television set.

Meanwhile, 22% said they would do nothing. Kearney noted that the CEA plans to conduct additional surveys as the digital TV transition nears.

“I asked my parents, who canceled their cable a few years ago, what they plan to do,” Kearney commented, “and they said, ‘Read magazines. And The New York Times.” After she pointed out that their local PBS station would be broadcasting several new digital channels, though, she said they will probably get a converter box.

The CEA estimates that come Feb. 17, 2009, between 22 million and 28 million analog TVs will need a digital-to-analog converter to continue receiving broadcast TV signals.

“Frankly we are concerned that a big segment of the population will not be ready,” said John Lawson, CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations, who also spoke on the panel.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has committed $200 million worth of advertising air time for public-service ads related to the DTV change. The National Association of Broadcasters has assigned its DTV campaign an estimated value of $697 million. 

Marsha MacBride, NAB executive vice president of legal and regulatory affairs, said on the panel that the association plans to make 98 billion impressions as part of its DTV campaign -- 300 impressions per person in the United States.

“You may see this in the back of the cab in New York City, or in your local paper,” she said. “It’s not just going to be primetime PSAs.”