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CES: DTV Transition Seen Adding 1.7 Million Pay-TV Subs

CES '09: Complete Coverage from Broadcasting & Cable

The elimination of analog TV broadcasts in the U.S.—currently set for Feb. 17, although the incoming Obama administration is hoping to push the date back—will give cable and satellite operators in the U.S. roughly 1.7 million new subscribers, according to a forecast by investment bank Barclays Capital.

Alan Miles, Barclays Capital vice president of equity research for media, Internet and telecommunications, said the digital TV transition will not be a significant business event for most pay-TV providers.

“For a lot of the major players, it’s not a big deal,” Miles said. He spoke on a panel discussion here at CES, “Digital TV Transition: Are We Ready?” moderated by Broadcasting & Cable senior editor Glen Dickson.

There’s uncertainty about whether the digital TV cutover date will remain Feb. 17 or get pushed back. On Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama called for the DTV transition to be postponed, arguing that poor, rural and elderly residents will be unprepared for the cutoff of analog TV signals.

Delaying the DTV transition by a few months probably won’t help consumers get ready any sooner than they would be on Feb. 17, said Emily Neilson, president and general manager of KLAS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas.

“It’s not that people haven’t heard the message. It’s that they haven’t taken action,” she said. “I think they still won’t take action until the day before or at midnight.”

Moving the Feb. 17 cutover also would disrupt Nielsen’s ratings and, by extension, national TV advertising, Neilson said.

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