One-Third of TV Stations Go Digital

About one-third, or 641 of the nation’s full-power TV stations turned off their analog signals without major incident. According to the National Association of Broadcasters-based preliminary results from markets that made the transition Feb. 17, the number of telephone calls from consumers was minimal.

In Virginia, where two markets have gone entirely digital, the state DTV call center received 150 phone calls. Stations in Rockford, Ill., reported receiving 200 calls from viewers, the majority of which were technical in nature. Stations in Topeka, Kans., took about 300 calls from viewers. “In each case, stations were able to resolve most viewer concerns over the phone,” the NAB said.

The Federal Communications reported Wednesday (Feb. 18) that calls to the FCC consumer help line totaled 28,315 on Tuesday and that calls over the past 36 hours were answered “almost immediately.”

Even though Congress changed the DTV deadline from Feb. 17 to June 12, TV stations were allowed to make the switch before then, as long as they satisfied certain conditions dictated by the Federal Communications Commission.

The reason for the 115 delay–that millions of consumers were not prepared for the digital TV transition–varies by market.

Updated data from Nielsen put the number of unprepared homes as of Feb. 15 at more than 5.5 million households, or 4.4 percent of all homes. That’s an improvement of more than 800,000 homes since Feb. 1.

Among Nielsen’s 56 meter markets, Albuquerque-Santa Fe, N.M., remains the least prepared market with 11.7 percent of households completely unready. The most prepared market is Hartford-New Haven, Conn. with only 1.2 percent of unready homes.