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Exec Sees Long Lines at DTV Converter Outlets on Feb. 17

The online version of the newsletter TWICE (This Week In Consumer Electronics) provides a glimpse of what to expect on Feb. 18, 2009 after analog TV is shutdown (or not; see this week's first story). In the article Panel: Analog-Shut Off-Test Offered Insights For Feb. 17.

Greg Tarr reports on the DisplaySearch HDTV conference session on the DTV transition, and many of the opinions echo comments I've made here and in my RF Technology column in TV Technology.

One of my concerns has been that when analog TV is shut off, many stations will turn off their UHF DTV transmitters and begin DTV broadcasting on their former analog high-VHF channel, causing established DTV viewers to lose their signal. Broadcasters need to educate their audiences that if they lose channels on Feb. 18, they will need to re-scan their tuners.

LG has this on the mind too.

John Taylor, LG public affairs and communications vice president, said the Zenith set-top boxes, which are made by LG, have been designed to complete the scanning process "in about 30 seconds."

"There are going to be pretty long lines at RadioShack, Best Buy and Circuit City" on Feb. 17," said Harold Protter, senior vice president of technology at CW Television Network.

He expects three or four weeks of chaos following the shutdown. He also expressed concern that many set-top box users can't comprehend the channel re-scan situation.

Protter is one of the speakers selected by the NAB to go into communities to educate the most vulnerable residents about the analog shut-off. He found that many viewers don't understand they need to hook an antenna to the converter box in order to receive signals.

In his article, Tarr reports the number of calls the FCC received after the Wilmington, N.C., early analog shut-off. Tarr focuses on the first day calls, but if calls on the following days are included the total is about 10 percent of the projected off-air audience. Most TV research departments know the number of people not connected to cable. Will your station be able to handle the calls if one in ten of them have questions?

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.