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Awareness of Digital TV Transition Grows, but Substantial Consumer Education Still Needed

Cable Research Nationwide Survey Shows Consumer Awareness Nearly 50 Percent; Knowledge of Transition Lags in ”Over the Air” Households

There’s growing awareness of the nation’s February 2009 transition to digital television by TV broadcasters, yet the group of Americans with the lowest level of awareness about the transition includes those that are most deeply affected – households that receive television programming exclusively “over the air.”

These are among the results from the CTAM Pulse, a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted last month by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), an association of cable industry marketing executives. CTAM is a member of the DTV Transition Coalition, a group created to educate consumers about the digital transition.

After February 17, 2009, the nation’s broadcast television stations will begin broadcasting exclusively in digital. This means that any consumer receiving broadcast TV over the air on an older analog TV set must take some action for that TV to continue receiving programs from the local TV stations. Those options include obtaining a new digital-to-analog converter; subscribing to cable TV or other multichannel video service, or replacing the analog TV set with a new one equipped with a digital TV tuner.

Major findings of the CTAM survey show that:

  • Forty-eight percent of U.S. households are aware of the digital TV transition, compared to just 29 percent from a survey taken in July 2005;
  • Groups most familiar with the transition are subscribers to broadband services (45 percent), digital cable service (40 percent), and basic cable service (39 percent);
  • Seventeen percent of survey respondents – representing more than 19 million homes – don’t have any televisions connected to a video service provider.
  • Households that don’t have any televisions connected to a video service provider were least familiar with the transition at 31 percent;

The survey also indicates how much work remains in educating American consumers about the transition. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they do not know when the digital transition will occur, and 26 percent believe it will take place sometime other than the designated year 2009.

“In the months ahead, cable companies will reassure their customers that all connected analog sets will continue to display the new broadcast digital TV signals seamlessly. In addition, companies will be aggressively communicating with all consumers to alert them to the transition, help them understand what will happen in 2009, and how they can benefit from this further transition to digital television technology,” said Char Beales, President and CEO, CTAM.

Other key findings of the survey that will help guide cable’s consumer education campaign on the DTV transition include:

  • Of those who are aware of the DTV transition, 38 percent said they’d learned about it from TV; 26 percent had read of it in the newspaper; and 20 percent had heard about it from friends or family.
  • Fifty percent of households that watch TV exclusively over the air said they don’t know where to turn for information about the transition.
  • The majority of households that currently receive cable, satellite or any other TV service have all their TV sets connected to some type of TV service – and therefore are unlikely to need digital-to-analog converters to keep their analog TV sets working. However, 25 percent of these “connected” households – or 23.3 million homes – said they also have at least one or more “unconnected” sets in their homes.
  • Two-fifths (40 percent) of households with an unconnected television set said they use those sets to watch broadcast TV programs only; 22 percent use them to watch DVDs; and 16 percent use them for video games.

The industry groups and government organizations that have united to form the DTV Transition Coalition are providing a variety of consumer information services to help educate consumers about their options in the transition. Extensive information is available the Coalition’s principal website at

Consumers can learn more about how the transition affects them at a Web site established jointly by CTAM and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) at

Specific details on the U.S. government’s coupon program to subsidize the consumer purchase of digital-to-analog converters, which starts in January 2008, is available from a toll-free number established by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, 1-888-DTV-2009.

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The Complete CTAM Pulse report is available on the CTAM Web site at

CTAM, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, is dedicated to helping the cable business grow. As a non-profit professional association, CTAM provides marketing education and networking opportunities to more than 5,500 members, through conferences, consumer research, publications,, a network of regional chapters, and the CTAM Executive Management Program at the Harvard Business School. CTAM also facilitates unified, national cooperative marketing efforts on behalf of its corporate members, such as the Cable Movers Hotline (SM), Business Services Initiative, and On Demand Consortium. Consumers can learn about cable’s advanced services and see offers from their local providers at the CTAM-supported (SM).

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