According to Nielsen, the number of households that are not ready for the upcoming DTV transition is down to 4.5 million, or about 3.9% of all TV households.
That number is down by over half a million (570,00 homes) since Nielsen's mid-February status report, when the total was 5.1 million and unreadiness was at 4.4%.
Albuquerque-Santa Fe remains the least prepared market at a hair under 10%, down from 12% in mid-February.
Nielsen defines completely unready as homes without cable or satellite service and without a TV with a digital tuner or a DTV-to-analog converter box hooked up. The ratings company concedes some of those homes could have the converter boxes, just not hooked up yet.
The National Association of Broadcasters has taken issue with the un-readiness figure. In a release Wednesday, NAB suggested that the early returns on the Feb. 17 switch of 421 stations to DTV broadcasts suggested no major problems, with no flood of calls to stations it had checked with and most of the issues resolved over the phone, a point NAB President David Rehr reiterated at an FCC meeting Thursday on the status of the transition.
Back in January, Jonathan Collegio, the NAB point person on the DTV transition, argued that the Nielsen figure overstates DTV un-readiness since it does not take into account people who have applied or are waiting for the coupon. "If somebody is waiting for a coupon, they are not technologically capable of receiving digital at that moment," he says, "but it is not like they are completely unready. They are ready enough to have taken the initiative to apply for a coupon."
He also pointed out that the Nielsen converter box figure does not take into account people who have the boxes but haven't hooked them up yet.
NAB was right to be concerned about that Nielsen unreadiness figure. It became a major talking point in Congress during the debate that ultimately resulted in the FCC moving the DTV hard date to June 12, which resulted in a kind of four-month rolling date, with some stations going Feb. 17, some June 12, and likely some in between.
The 5 million figure was also invoked frequently at Thursday's FCC meeting, particularly by the head of the NTIA's coupon box program, who cited the figure in explaining the name given to the second phase of the agency's education outreach program: Search and Rescue.
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