Many unprepared for DTV transition

Study shows only slight gains in awareness

Eight months before the DTV transition, large segments of the population remain unprepared, according to a Nielsen study on DTV preparedness. The report updates a previous study and provides additional details on the potential programming impact.

According to the study, 9.4% of TV households are "completely" unprepared for the transition. Another 12.6% are "partially" unprepared and have at least one set that would not work after the transition date. That's only slightly better than February, when 10% were not ready and another 13.1% had at least one digitally unworkable TV set.

Between now and Feb. 17, consumers who want TV must purchase a new digital set, buy a converter box for their old set or subscribe to a subscription TV service.

Households that are ready to make the switch watch more TV than those that are not. Homes that are not ready tune in an average of 6.9 hours a day; those that are completely ready watch 8.7 hours a day.

As a whole, Hispanic households are the least ready for the transition. As a result, the effect of unready households on total viewing is more likely to affect Hispanic networks than Anglo networks. Viewing on unready sets accounts for 17% of primetime viewing of English-language broadcast networks and 26.8% of Spanish-language broadcast networks.

Some markets are more ready than others. Those with the highest percentage of unprepared TV households, many of the nation's largest markets, include Milwaukee (18.3%), Salt Lake City (18%), Portland, Ore. (17.3%), Houston (17%), Minneapolis-St. Paul (16.9%), Dallas-Fort Worth (15.7%), Cincinnati (15%) and St. Louis (14.7%).

Markets that are more ready than the general population include Hartford and New Haven, Conn., New York, Atlanta, Fort Myers and Naples, Fla., Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Philadelphia and Washington.

Nielsen intends to track preparedness on a regular basis.