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A box or not a box? That’s the question for millions of TV viewers. June 7, 2007

Posted by John in Technology.
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Less than two years from now (January 17, 2009 to be exact) the transition to digital TV takes place in the US. That means that TV:s with only analog reception will go black. To avoid this consumers must get a converter box.

Today New York Times reports that two prototypes of converter boxes for digital TV recently have been showcased. A converter box will be needed for those consumers who are using a rooftop antenna or indoor antennas called rabbit ears to receive TV signals to their set. Well known manufacturers LG and Thompson showed new boxes scheduled to hit the shelf’s early 2008 at the showcase arranged by The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in New York.

The transition is a big thing. Nearly 20 million households in the US are directly affected by it. But only a fistful are aware of the changes today. Recent surveys made by NAB convey that about 60 percent of the households don’t know about the transition. And only 10 percent of consumers know that it occurs in 2009. Besides from the 20 million households directly affected, another 15 million homes have analog reception as an alternative in their home together with satellite and/or cable TV.

So how will the conversion boxes get into the homes? The National Telecommunications and Information Administration,NTIA, will issue $40 vouchers to consumers who apply for them, to be used when he or she buys a converter box. The subsidiary is funded by selling frequencies that today are used for transmitting analog TV signals. The government has in that way set aside some $1.5 billion to help consumers to pay for their box. NAB has recently launched a major public awareness campaign that will reach out to consumers. The campaign itself is worth about $100 million according to NAB.

The Fortune/CNN Money-blog notes that the development is great for LG and Thompson, providing converter boxes to a market expected to be worth more than $1 billion. Om Malik at Newteevee called today’s piece “Rabbit ears, soon to be clipped”. Malik thinks that it’s good news that the government subsidizes converter boxes. Gearlog’s Brian Heater points out that few will be directly affected by the transition to digital TV since the majority are using cable TV. However commentators on his blog express their satisfaction receiving over-the-air HD TV, even using “rabbit ears”.

The bottom line for NAB is that no one should loose TV reception due to lack of information about the transition, according to New York Times. We agree. The verdict will come on January, 18 2009.

By Anders Bjers and John Furrier

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