Nielsen: 9 Million Homes Aren't DTV-Ready

10/17/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

The number of TV households that still haven't prepared for the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to digital television now stands at 9 million, a decline of 1.4 % since May, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That translates into about 8.4 % of U.S. TV homes.

The TV-ratings firm has determined that Houston, among the 56 markets it monitors with electronic meters, is the least ready for the DTV date, with an estimated 15.8% homes completely unready. Other little-prepared viewing markets include Dallas-Ft. Worth; Tulsa, Okla.; Salt Lake City; and Milwaukee.

Analog Laggards
Nielsen TV markets with the largest percentage of “DTV-unready” households:
DMA Percentage
SOURCE: Nielsen Media Research
Dallas/Ft. Worth14.3%
Tulsa, Okla.14.1%
Salt Lake City13.4%
Albuquerque, N.M.12.7%
Minneapolis/St. Paul12%
Austin, Texas11.6%
Los Angeles11.6%
Memphis, Tenn.11.6%

The Fort Myers/Naples, Fla., market is the most ready, with only 2.4% of homes unprepared, according to Nielsen. Other prepared communities are Hartford/New Haven, Conn.; West Palm Beach/Fort Pierce, Fla.; Atlanta; and Philadelphia.

One quarter of those 9 million sets are not being used for over-the-air television, the company added, noting those sets may never be converted to digital. Those sets, primarily in bedrooms and kitchens, are used to view content on DVDs and VCRs or to play video games.

Of those consumers who have acted to prepare for the DTV transition, 38% have removed or replaced the analog-only set; 37% have subscribed to cable or satellite service and 25% have bought a new digital tuner, according to Nielsen.

There was bad news for the broadcasters in the report. Households that have made the conversion watch 19.8% more television, according to Nielsen. But because so many of the households are choosing pay TV as their solution, viewing of English-language broadcast stations has declined by 47.8% in those homes, while viewing of Spanish-language broadcasters declines 28.9%.

Those who have not acted to prepare themselves for the transition tend to be less educated, lower income and blue collar, the Nielsen report said. Low income homes are defined as $25,000 a year or less; those homes are five times as likely to be unprepared as homes with incomes $75,000 or more a year.

The report also looked at specific demographics. Nielsen said 13% of Hispanic households are completely unready for the DTV transition. Among households mostly or exclusively speaking Spanish, that rate rises to 25%. African-American households are also heavily represented among unprepared households: 12.5% of those households fit in that category.

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