Study says 80 million OTA TVs still in use

Results of a survey conducted by the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America indicates 15 percent of TVs are used exclusively to receive OTA television transmissions

Up to 80 million television sets will go dark without a digital-to-analog converter after the DTV transition ends, according to a new study.

Results of a survey conducted by Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America also indicate 15 percent of TVs are used exclusively to receive over-the-air (OTA) television transmission, rather than cable TV or direct broadcast satellite service. That figure closely matches the OTA-only figure of 13 percent recently given to Congress by the Consumer Electronics Association.

The Consumer Union survey released June 29 showed that 39 percent of American households have at least one television set relying solely on OTA broadcasts. In Congressional testimony last month, Consumer Electronics Association President and CEO Gary Shapiro indicated that at least half of the sets not hooked up to cable or satellite were used primarily for an activity other than watching OTA broadcasts, such as DVD viewing or game playing.

However, the new survey from the Consumers Union indicated that the end of analog transmission — especially without adequate funding for digital-to-analog converters — would have a harmful effect. The survey also showed:

  • U.S. households relying solely on OTA TV broadcast is up to 16 million;
  • At least 42 million households won’t be able to watch television without a converter after the analog TV transmission ends;
  • At least 80 million sets will go dark when the analog off switch is thrown without a converter;
  • Up to 25 million sets in cable households are not connected to cable;
  • Up to 20 million sets in satellite households are not connected to satellite.

Last month, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced legislation to establish Jan. 1, 2009, as the hard date for the shutoff of analog TV transmission by full-power stations. Similar action is expected after the summer in the House.

The entire 11-page report, “Estimating the Consumer Costs of the Federally Mandated Digital TV Transition,” is available at

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