Transitions: Notoriously Slower than Predictions

Back in the 1990s when the FCC was optimistically setting its DTV transition parameters, more than a few analysts and broadcast engineers (who knew what DTV transmission and studio equipment, not to mention HD gear, would cost) warned that similar transitions always took longer than even logic might dictate. They only have to point to most other transition periods in recent history.

Analyst, consultant, educator and engineer Mark Schubin has long anticipated that the entire DTV transition may not be fully complete until (are you ready for this?)-- 2018. This week, the author of the widely read online Monday Memo (which sometimes comes out on Tuesday) told HD Notebook he sees no reason to change that prediction yet. Mark provided these statistical reminders of just how long some things take:

  • 1954 - Color broadcasts begin; 1978 - first year in which color TV sales exceed black & white

  • 1964 - U.K. begins System I (625-line) broadcasts with 405-line supposed to cease in "five years"; 1985 - the last 405-line transmitter in the UK is turned off

  • 1971 - Sony introduces the home VCR; 1975 - Sony re-introduces the home VCR;

  • 1976 - VHS introduced; 1995 - 85 percent VCR penetration of U.S. households

  • 1984 - TV stereo broadcasts begin; 2005 - 73 percent stereo penetration of U.S. households

Here are some U.S. home penetration rates of other media compiled by the CEA in phone surveys, provided by Mark. Note that most of these media were introduced prior to DTT (digital terrestrial TV):

  • DVD players: 75 percent
  • Computers: 70 percent
  • Internet access (broadband and dial-up): 64 percent
  • DBS and other satellite receivers: 25 percent
  • Projection TV: 20 percent
  • LCD TV (including hand-held): 17 percent
  • DTT reception capability - *under 3 percent (*based on factory sales)