As broadcasters begin to freak about digital TV, lots of local viewers request converters
As I was leaving a meeting last month with FCC commissioner Michael Copps, where a host of Tampa Bay area Hispanic leaders shared plans for spreading the word about the upcoming digital TV conversion, the president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters summed up the sentiment in the room.
"We're hoping it's like Y2K," said C. Patrick Roberts, FAB president. "A lot of worry and preparation and then nothing happens."
Perhaps. But a magazine writer friend of mine came up with the perfect retort when I tossed that line at him; Y2K, the date glitch that was supposed to freeze all old computers, never really happened. We KNOW broadcasters are shutting off analog TV broadcasts on Feb. 17.
And local broadcasters, scared silly by a coming year with no Olympics and no political advertising and diminished ratings thanks to Nielsen Media Research's local people meter system, don't need another 10 percent of viewers to drop off the radar screen when the switch happens.
Which is why they may be heartened by figures from the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today showing that more than 511,000 households in Florida have already requested digital-to-analog converter boxes, so they can keep watching TV when analog signals stop.
According to the NTIA, here's the percentage of over-the air-households -- households getting TV over the air from rooftop or rabbit ear antennas -- who have requested converters in Florida. The Tampa Bay area is the third lowest, but 87 percent of our OTA households have requested the boxes.
(What I'm wondering, is how does a community like Orlando or Fort Myers land requests from more than 100 percent of their OTA households? In December?)
Percentage of over-the-air households who requested coupons (as of Dec 14, 2008):
Fort Myers-Naples, 107%
Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, 103%
Panama City, 93%
West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce,93%
Tampa-St. Pete (and Sarasota), 87%