PBS study says analog shutoff won’t deter non-pay subscribers

Half of Americans who do not have pay-TV will probably continue to use rabbit ears after the switch to digital TV in February 2009, according to a new study. However, most of those have no idea how.

About 43 percent of an estimated 21 million over-the-air households indicated they would buy a converter box or purchase a digital TV between now and the transition date, but only 12 percent of those said they would bite the bullet and pony up for a pay service, the Association of Public Television Stations found.

Despite the government’s DTV converter coupon program, 25 percent of Americans said they “don't know” what steps they would take, and 19 percent said they would “do nothing.”

More than three-quarters of those surveyed who are aware of the transition did not know why the federal government has ordered the transition. “It appears that the government's positive message regarding the reasons for the transition has fallen on deaf ears,” APTS president and CEO John Lawson told Reuters.

However, Lawson said the data indicates that free, over-the-air television may be set for a big comeback. “Many people see broadcasting as a dinosaur technology, but we broadcasters have the opportunity to reposition it as ‘wireless TV’ and reach new audiences,” he said.