DTV Blunders

2002 (proof).pdf

The US Government has embarked upon a mission to convert all US TV broadcast from analog to digital. For more information on the history and details on the conversion go to Wikipedia or to the Government DTV site. Here is my analysis.

The DTV conversion is a very interesting occurrence that the government, broadcasters, media companies, and consumers are all handling incorrectly. The government is offering coupons for one time use obsolete technology, broadcasters are incorrectly educating consumers, media companies like Comcast are taking advantage of consumers to convince them to subscribe to their services, and consumers are not educating themselves about the transition to the extend they should.

First, the government is subsidizing obsolete technology. To allow consumers to use their old, outdated, obsolete technology, the government is providing $40 coupons for converter boxes to convert DTV signals into Analog signals. I would argue that the $40 coupons should also be applicable to digital TVs. The coupons would still be used for a solution to the transition when used for buying a DTV, but in this case buying a new TV would be a permanent solution and not a bandage. Providing coupons only for converter boxes is a waste of money and resources.

Does it make sense to engineer, produce, and transport devices that will only have one use: to convert DTV signals to an obsolete signal? When older TVs break, they will be replaced by newer TVs that accept DTV signals. That will make the converter box useless. Did mobile phone operators distribute digital to analog mobile phone converters? No! That would be stupid! Furthermore, the type of consumer that still has not bought a DTV would most likely have a difficult time integrating their converter box into their home entertainment setup. It would be much easier to buy a just the new TV and connect it to an antenna just like the previous TV was set up. A replacement TV would cost $200, $160 after coupon. Still a lot of money, but at least nothing is going to waste.

Broadcasters have only recently begun bombarding consumers with ads that DTV is coming, and Analog TV will not work in mid February. I believe it is too late to start this advertising blitz. Case in point, converter box coupons are all used up! You must now get on a waiting list in order to receive your coupon! Furthermore, many retailers have sold out of converter boxes! This goes back to my previous point, where the coupons should be applicable to any DTV device; a converter box or new TV set.

The method broadcasters are using to communicate the details of the transition are also very poor. TV ads are pointing consumers to and a phone hotline that is automated. Consumers that have not yet transitioned are most likely, of all demographics, not to be Internet savvy or have a connection to the internet. Second, the hotline is fully automated. So if a consumer has a question about the transition, there is no way to have their questions answered.

Media companies like Comcast and RCN Cable are also taking advantage of this situation to convince consumers to overpay for their services. Comcast is advertising thet if you pay for their services, you do not have to do anything. Which is true, however, their ads try to convince consumers they should be signing up for Comcast service rather than get a converter box or new DTV set.

RCN is taking a different rout. They are telling their CURRENT customers they are required to have a new cable box that they must RENT! That’s right, RCN is informing consumers that they need this box as part of the DTV transition, which is NOT THE TRUETH! The transition is only applicable to over-the-air programming. It is obvious that RCN is ripping off their customers since Comcast is advertising that there is no need to get a box. Unbelievable!

The misleading ads that these media companies are pushing prove that consumers will believe anything they see on TV. Unfortunately these messages conflict one another. What consumers need to do is RESEARCH! They need to ask friends and family that are familiar with the transition what is going on, and what they need to do. Everyone has a geek in their network; it could be a son, daughter, friend of the family, someone.

Trusting media companies, retailers, or broadcasters every word will not only cause confusion, it will lead to the consumer buying unneeded devices or services.

A funny thing that an industry writer (John C. Dvorak) has been harping on is that many consumers think they already have a digital TV tuner, when they in fact, do not. What they have is an analog tuner that displays the channel number on a digital looking display. Do you think your VCR is a digital tuner? It has a digital clock looking display right? WRONG!

February 17th is bound to be a disaster; I cannot wait to see all the confusion that occurs. We have the government and poorly educated media providers combining forces and misinforming and confuse the public.

One good thing a local broadcaster is doing is running an ad only on analog signals that will tell the consumer they are not prepared. Unfortunately it is a bit too late, as coupons have run out and converter boxes are all backordered.

The best solution would have had this analog only advertisement visible many months ago, consistently, 24/7, as a lower third or throbber/icon that informs the consumer how much longer they have till the analog signal vanishes. This would be simple, it would prove they HAVE NOT UPGREADED YET, and

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