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NAB: 1.75 Million Unready for DTV Transition

The DTV Countdown: Complete Coverage of the DTV Transition

"DTV is free, its better and it has arrived."

With that, Paul Karpowicz, the newly elected chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters TV Board, signaled broadcasters' readiness to finally pull the plug on analog for good.

That pronouncement came at a NAB press conference on the last full day of analog transmissions for the majority of America's full power TV stations. Representatives of government and industry gathered at the First Amendment room of the National Press Club in Washington to talk about how ready broadcasters and consumers are for the big switch.

The NAB said at the press conference that its most recent polling--through June 3--found that about 1.75 million over-the-air TV households have not taken steps to convert to digital. The FCC says it is pleased, but not satisfied, with the reduction in unready homes, and knows it has a job ahead of it.

Nielsen released its final pre-transition readiness figure earlier in the week, concluding that 2.8 million were unready (meaning they have no digital TV, no digital-to-analog converter box set up, and no cable or satellite service.

But Seth Geiger, president of SmithGeiger LLC, put that number at 2.2 million households. He then knocked off another 440,000, who had indicated they were "down the path" to readiness, which meant they had taken some steps, including applying for a DTV-to-analog converter box coupon or had a box but had not hooked it up. "There will be a fair amount of procrastination and last-minute adoption," he said.

According to Geiger, 80% of those who were digital-ready reported better reception and 76% said they were getting more channels.

For example, of those who had not taken any steps, almost a third (30%) thought they still had time. The consensus among the press conference attendees, which included representatives from the NTIA, FCC, NAB, AARP, and consumer manufacturers and retailers, was that the June 12 transition would result in a majority of viewers getting more channels and better pictures. But all conceded there would be reception problems and signal losses, and confused viewers, all of which would need to be addressed in the days and weeks and even years to come.

Representing the thousands of broadcasters who have actually had to make the investment in time and equipment and education efforts to make the switch, Karpowicz, president of Meredith Broadcasting, said that they were "poised and ready to lead viewers into an all-digital future starting [today]."

But ready didn't mean complacent, said Karpowiz. He said broadcasters would continue to "flood" the airwaves with PSAs about scanning and rescanning for channels.

Then, holding up a mobile digital device at the press conference, Karpowicz appeared to point to the next chapter in TV's future.