On Friday, June 12, the remaining 971 full-power U.S. TV stations pulled the plug on analog transmissions, marking the end of the NTSC era. The NTSC standard was released in 1941, with the color version approved in 1953. In the U.S., nearly 70 years of analog broadcasting has officially come to a close. "We will remember analog television fondly, but look forward to the all digital broadcast world," said ATSC President Mark Richer. "One of the great things about digital television is its flexibility and ability to evolve. We are currently focused on the development of new standards that will enable mobile and handheld service (ATSC Mobile DTV), file-based non-real-time program delivery (ATSC-NRT) and the next generation of services for fixed receivers (ATSC 2.0)."
Insight Media Consultant
Some 1,760 full-power TV stations had already cut their analog signals before Friday, mostly in less populated areas. TV stations were free to choose when in the day to cut their signals, and many were holding off until late Friday night. Low-power and translator stations will continue to broadcast in analog form for an indeterminate period of time.
So far, the early signs are that the transition has come about with moderate success. Many viewers, however, were holding out until the last minute. The NTIA said that it received 319,990 converter box coupon requests on Thursday, nearly four times the daily average for the past month. In all, the government has mailed coupons for almost 60 million converter boxes.
The FCC reported Saturday that nearly 700,000 calls were received by their hot line last week. Of these calls, approximately half of them came in on Friday, with 317,450 of the calls about converter box coupons, with estimates that at least 100,000 people still didn’t have the right equipment to receive digital signals.
The largest volume of calls came from the Chicago area, followed by Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Most of the calls on Friday were from people who had converter boxes, but needed help setting them up, including the rescanning of TV sets; over-the-air viewers must rescan their sets to pick up the new digital signals that were just powered on. About 20% of the calls dealt with reception issues.
The FCC also said that 121 stations are providing analog nightlight service in 87 markets. The Commission had requested stations to voluntarily provide the service, which is DTV transition information, and if needed, emergency news and weather, for 30 days after the transition.
Research firm SmithGeiger said Thursday that about 2.2 million households were still unprepared as of last week. Sponsored by the NAB, it surveyed 948 households that relied on antennas and found that 1 in 8 did not have a digital TV or digital converter box. Nielsen put the number of unready homes at 2.8 million, or 2.5 percent of the total television market, as of Sunday, June 7th; in February, the number was 5.8 million. However, both surveys counted households as "unprepared" even if they took some steps toward conversion, such as ordering a converter box coupon.
What’s next? The freeing up of channels 54, 55 and 56 in the switchover means that FLO TV, the offering for mobile phones from wireless chipmaker Qualcomm, could begin broadcasting immediately on the spectrum. And the Commission faces a February 17, 2010 deadline to deliver Congress a National Broadband Plan. With mobile TV services ramping up, and consumer confidence edging up, it’s looking like a good time to start thinking about new business opportunities. -agc