DTV Transition: 46 Million Eyeballs Could Vanish

Most folks are unaware of the digital transition, according to a recent survey from the Consumer Union, the Washington, D.C. think tank that publishes Consumer Reports.

No they’re not, countered the National Association of Broadcasters, the Washington, D.C. lobby representing TV stations.

The CU survey found that 23 million people could drop off out of the ratings come Feb. 17, 2009. That is, if they don’t buy a converter box, assuming they know such a thing is available. Seventy-three percent did not.

The CU also found that 36 percent of those surveyed were unaware of the DTV transition, and another 17 percent didn’t know if they’d be affected by it. One-quarter of the folks who knew about the Feb. 17, 2009 analog sunset thought they’d have to pitch their analog TVs when it arrived. Of roughly 13 percent who relied exclusively on over-the-air television, 42 percent said they weren’t planning on doing anything when the deadline arrived.

The CU results were complied from more than 1,000 telephone interviews with folks over 18 years old, conducted in mid-December. The NAB did not provide a sample size, but said it conducted a similar survey earlier this month and found that 79 percent of folks had “seen, read or heard something about the Feb. 17, 2009 transition to digital television,” up from 38 percent last year.

Among households relying exclusively on antenna TV, the number was 83 percent. The NAB’s press release announcing its consumer awareness results said more than 34 million households rely on over-the-air television signals, an apparent increase from commonly held estimates of between 11 million (Consumer Electronics Association), and 20 million (Government Accountability Office).