13 million unprepared for DTV switch


NEW YORK -- Nielsen Media Research has estimated that more than 13 million households are ill-prepared for the digital TV conversion.

Those households include more younger people than older and more black viewers than white or Asian. The demographic hit hardest is Hispanic, who use over-the-air TV more than any other group.

On Feb. 18, 2009, all TV broadcasters will be required to shut off their analog signal and broadcast solely on the digital spectrum. That leaves millions of over-the-air viewers with a choice: Buy a digital converter box or face losing TV. Beyond the households who solely rely on over-the-air TV, Nielsen estimated that 6 million households have at least one TV that needs an analog signal even if other sets in the house might be connected to cable or satellite.

Nielsen is among those in the TV industry who are working to ease the digital transition, which could disenfranchise millions of consumers who don't get converter boxes (or subscribe to cable or satellite) and could lead to shifts in viewing for networks and stations. Nielsen has been looking into this issue for 18 months and reported its findings Friday at its annual client meeting in Las Vegas.

The best-prepared market is New York, which has 3% of its households relying on over-the-air signals. Portland, Ore., has the most (22%). Los Angeles falls toward the end of the spectrum, with 16% of its households depending on analog.

Other ill-prepared markets include St. Louis; Milwaukee; Albuquerque, N.M.; Houston; Salt Lake City; and Minneapolis-St. Paul.