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Ending Analog Early: More OTA Viewers Than Expected

For several months before PBS member station KCSM in San Mateo, Calif., took down its analog signal last May, viewers were repeatedly warned of the impending shut-off -- to little avail. When the analog transmitter went dark, KCSM lost 38 percent of its audience, according to a report from the PBS Technology Conference in Las Vegas, where KCSM Director of Technology Michelle Muller gave a presentation on the shutdown.

In Muller's presentation, entitled "Analog Shutdown-Early Retirement or Killing Me Softly," she described how the station did everything right before the shutdown, including telling viewers, talking to cable companies and telling retailers how people could receive DTV.

The station then pulled analog programming on May 15 and powered down the transmitter on May 24. That's when the KCSM folks learned just how significant their over-the-air audience was. Previous estimates based on cable and DBS penetration put the potential OTA audience at 11 percent. Previous estimates were wrong - it was three-and-a-half times that amount.

KCSM is one of four stations that the FCC has allowed to terminate analog signals early. KCSM decided to end transmissions after losing the lease on the station's analog transmitter site.