Turns out I'm not the only one concerned about the digital TV transition in the States.

Ina notes that Best Buy's CEO, Brad Anderson, said that the digital TV transition "posed the biggest threat to his industry, warning of the dangers if consumers find themselves having TVs that don't work once the broadcasters end their analog signals in February of 2009."

"We're very nervous about the potential risk," Anderson said. "I think the industry will be damaged if we as an industry don't handle this well."

(You can read Anderson's comments from the CE exec panel discussion that Ina documented from the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this week.)

Where was the industry when the change to daylight saving time in the States was a year away?  Generally, people and the industry were unaware of the change.  Advertising and promotion by the government or any agency (including the venerable DOE, where the change originated before being signed into law) was quiet.  And many companies impacted by the change had little more than a support web page dedicated to the change until late in 2006.

Not so for digital TV.  There are TV commercials in prime time, news articles in many periodicals and columns, and even snazzy, industry supported websites to warn of the change.

So, why is Best Buy's CEO worried? 

IMHO, it would seem that retailers would like to see this transition be promoted (and ultimately occur) to help spur on new TV sales in a time of a possible recession.  Same for the broadband suppliers, to move even a greater number of consumers to their digital services.

I guess that people will be less forgiving if their TV signal turns to snow come next February, rather than being an hour early for Sunday brunch (as was the case last March.  In this case, the government has funded and created the https://www.dtv2009.gov/ website, and the industry (through the NAB) has gotten together to create the dtvanswers.com website.

By law, television stations nationwide must switch from the old method of transmitting TV signals known as analog to digital television (DTV) on February 17, 2009. DTV is an innovative new type of broadcasting technology that delivers movie-quality pictures and sound, more channels, and even high definition television (HDTV) to consumers with HD television sets.

While the benefits of DTV are remarkable, millions of households risk losing television reception unless they take the easy steps to receive a digital signal. We're here to assist you throughout the entire transition process.

Given that a majority of Americans today receive television via cable and satellite connections (70% are connected to cable), I wonder how many people will be really be impacted by this change over? If you're like me and you subscribe to basic analogue cable, chances are that you will be unaffected by the change (save for that TV in the garage you use to keep you company whilst working in the shop): the cable company will continue (for at least the near future,but beyond the 2009 change) to keep the analogue lines rather than swap out all of the analogue boxes in the field. 

For us at home, I prefer having both available as we do now: we have the convenience of analogue cable on every outlet in our home (which makes it easy for our cable-ready TVs, DVRs and Media Center PCs).  And for the TVs we have with on-board digital tuners, we're able to pull down the digital and high definition TV signals today.

So, again: if you get your television via cable, satellite or IPTV, chances are you will be unaffected.  But if you're pulling the evening news and Law & Order over analogue via rabbit ears, the US Government will provide up to two $40 coupons per household "to help defray the cost of certified TV converter boxes." 

You'll need a converter (expected to cost between $50 and $70) to decode the new digital television broadcasts after February 17, 2009. Coupons are free, but supply is limited.

You can apply for your converter box coupons via:

  • Phone: 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009)
  • TTY: 1-877-530-2634
  • Online Form: www.DTV2009.gov 
  • Mail: PO Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208
  • Fax: 1-877-DTV-4ME2 (1-877-388-4632)

More links (courtesy of dtv2009.gov)

Learn how to prepare for DTV

www.dtvanswers.com - DTV Answers offers more information about television’s switch to digital, including resources to help choose an antenna, converter box details, videos, and more.

www.ceretailers.org - Visit the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition and download a special “Consumer Guide” on the DTV Transition.

www.dtv.gov - DTV related consumer resources, outreach tools, publications, news, and more can be found here.

www.dtvtransition.org - Take an online quiz to find out if you are ready for the DTV Transition or access an extensive list of online DTV resources.

www.digitaltips.org - A valuable resource provided by the Consumer Electronics Association, has a handy "Quick Start Guide" to install a TV Converter Box and other useful tools.

www.getreadyfordigitaltv.com - Useful information and television spots brought to you by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Tags: TV, CES 2008, CES, television, DTV.