Broadcasting in Digital1 Jul, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
The 2009 transition will eventually change the way that Americans watch TV and the way that marketers buy media for broadcasting on sets, mobile phones and the Internet.
On the lips of most in the broadcasting industry these days is the February 2009 transition from analog to digital. About 34 million American households will be affected by the switch: 20 million that rely on over-the-air programming and 14.9 million mixed households, meaning they have a paid service but not all sets are hooked up to it.
Though advertising for the mandatory switch began earlier this year and many consumers are aware of the transition, the outcome for television, broadcast and the entire entertainment industry is yet to be determined. And while most media buying and marketing experts envision a fairly smooth transition, they do expect a long-term impact on how it influences consumer television habits, including Internet and mobile phone broadcasts — which will most likely mean a shift in DRTV tactics.
The consumer's desire for a higher quality television picture has been evident in the rapidly increasing demand for HDTV sets. Purchases in the past few years have far outpaced that of color television sets when they were first released, making the move by broadcasters to deliver HD to consumers an obvious and logical next step.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) created the Web site DTVanswers.com as a place for consumers to get all the facts about the 2009 digital broadcast transition.
While there are misconceptions about the transition, Shermaze Ingram, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), says that this switch will mean a crystal clear picture and better sound for all consumers, not just those with an HDTV set.
"Even old TV sets with antenna do not have to be replaced: the owner just has to buy a converter box," says Ingram. "And those homes that are currently set up for cable or satellite dishes will in no way be affected."
An estimated 93 percent of television stations are already showing both analog and digital programming. The switch is costing about $2 to $3 million per station and, collectively, the industry has spent $5 billion on the upgrade. The switch also means an increased efficiency for broadcasters. In the analog world, only one station could be broadcast in 6 MHz of spectrum. "But with digital, networks will be able to put out five or six stations in the same amount of space. This could mean increased advertising opportunities for stations," says Ingram.
Telegent s technology allows real-time television to be broadcast on mobile phones. In the near future, this free-to-air service could open the door for more customer interaction with television, which means more advertising opportunities and additional revenue for mobile operators and TV networks.
The NAB has been working with other agencies to run a major consumer education campaign that includes on-air talent, public service announcements, short-form and long-form ads, DTV trekker trucks driving across the country, and on-air calls that scroll across the bottom of television programs. NAB also runs DTVanswers.com, a Web site that answers most of consumers' questions. Awareness has doubled to 79 percent since the beginning of the campaign. The remaining six months will be spent reaching out to markets with a high concentration of unready sets.