Few report hitches as digital TV switch begins

NAB: Small percentage of viewers have called for help

The digital transition has begun in earnest, and early reports suggest a relatively modest level of disruption.

The National Association of Broadcasters said stations are averaging 50 to 200 calls from viewers with questions about the switchover, while the FCC has received 28,000 phone calls from viewers.

That's with one-third of TV stations having switched to digital signals. The NAB says 421 stations flipped the switch Tuesday, joining 220 local affiliates that already made the change in advance of the June 12 deadline for compliance. Most of the calls, the NAB said, were questions about converter boxes and rescanning issues.

"These findings from local stations, coupled with the FCC data, paint the picture that, by and large, TV households affected in those markets were ready," said Jonathan Collegio, NAB vp for the transition. "Given the large number of broadcast-only households affected during (Tuesday's) transition, a relatively small percentage of viewers so far have needed assistance."

The NAB said call centers in Virginia received about 150 calls. Stations in Rockford, Ill., received 200 calls, and stations in Topeka, Kan., received 300.

"In each case, stations were able to resolve most viewer concerns over the phone," the NAB said.

Nielsen released an update saying that 5 million U.S. households -- or 4.4% of all homes -- remain unprepared. This is an improvement of more than 800,000 homes since Nielsen reported readiness status at the beginning of February. The Albuquerque/Santa Fe, N.M., market continues to be the least prepared.

Some stations switched during the daytime, but an NAB representative said the "vast majority" that switched Tuesday did so after airing their primetime programming. So Tuesday's ratings are not a valid measure of whether the transition is having a viewership impact.