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Digital TV transition makes many battery-powered TVs obsolete

Count on a battery-powered TV to get you through hurricane season power failures? Be advised it's going to be roadkill on the route to digital TV.

The radios in those old portable TV weather units will continue to work. But the TV display blinks to obsolete when the last analog TV broadcasts in the Tampa Bay area end at midnight Friday.

Oh, you could buy a converter for about $60. Or pull up dtv.gov to apply for a voucher from the U.S. Department of Commerce to offset some of the cost. But you still need to figure out where to plug in the converter (small TVs don't all have plugs) and rig up a power supply on a cheapie TV that most likely cost less new a few years ago than today's fix.

At the prodding of the FCC, a few TV makers finally put some small battery-powered sets on the market that meet the new digital ATSC standard. The brands — Eviant, Accurian and Haier — are not household names. Sets are in short supply and prices recently nosed below $200.

Radio Shack now stocks a compatible 4.3-inch screen with a rechargeable battery for $150. Target.com promotes a 7-inch screen for $112 including shipping.

Industry analysts don't see prices tumbling much more. That's because the market is small, a high-resolution picture means little on a tiny screen and the industry's big players are focused on technology that sells multiple products.

"As opposed to a stationary set, they're concentrated on creating a new mobile broadcast standard (for portable cellular, laptop and DVD players found in the rear seats of vehicles) that should be on the market in a year or two," said Ross Rubin, who tracks consumer electronics for NPD Group.

Indeed, most Florida discount stores and supermarkets that once sold battery-powered TVs this hurricane season only carry weather radios.

"We're pushing NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radios as a replacement because they cost less than $30," said Mike Stone, a spokesman for state Department of Emergency Management. "AM and FM radio still are the fastest information sources to restore in a disaster."

For those who find little comfort listening to voices in the dark, progress must seem like two steps forward, one step back.

• • •

Recent seasonal closings at some miniclinics operating inside drugstores are not a sign the low-cost alternative staffed by nurse practitioners is in retreat. The two big players locally will add services to expand their business model later this month.

Located inside Walgreens stores, Take Care Clinics will add skin tag and wart removal, treatment for rash, allergic skin reactions and animal and tick bites and, at seven locations, test infusion and injection treatments for chronic sufferers of osteoporosis and asthma. The infusion and injection therapies must be under orders from the patient's regular doctor.

Minute Clinics, which operate in CVS stores, are adding $30 sports physicals, tuberculosis tests and treatment for motion sickness and minor sprains. Later this month they add infusion treatments through nebulizers for mild asthma.

"We aren't going away," said Jayne Pratt, Minute Clinic operations manager in the bay area. "Doctors feel less threatened by us when they realize we supplement them by being open nights and weekends."

• • •

Casting calls for amateur inventors hoping to catch a break on HSN through Kelly Ripa's Mom Inc. reality TV series start this month in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Details on how to audition for the series slated to air on TLC in the winter can be found at hsn.com/show.

Producers at Ripa and her husband Mark Consuelos' Milojo Productions hope to tell stories of moms turning their brainstorms into moneymakers on HSN, the TV shopping channel based in St. Petersburg.

Audition instructions suggest candidates not wear black-and-white outfits. They may be trend right. But they don't look good on TV.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Digital TV transition makes many battery-powered TVs obsolete 06/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 8, 2009 8:20pm]

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