FCC Seeks Refined DTV Tuner Adoption Data

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Washington – The Federal Communications Commission will attempt to collect data to determine the number of broadcast TV-only homes that have acquired digital reception equipment as the country prepares for the transition to digital-only broadcast TV in early 2009.

The FCC can turn to outside industry sources now for certain market data estimates, such as the total number of homes that subscribe to a pay-television service and the number that rely exclusively on over-the-air TV. But the FCC does not know how many broadcast-only homes have acquired a TV set with an over-the-air digital tuner.

The lack of information is “because the publicly available information on the sale of receivers with digital tuners generally does not provide information on the characteristics of the households purchasing the TV sets,” FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in an Oct. 13 letter to Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that they released Monday.

Martin said the agency would attempt to collect the data sought by Barton and Upton, who want it apparently to help gauge potential demand for digital-to-analog converter box coupons under a $1.5 billion Commerce Department subsidy program that begins January 1.

“I have directed [FCC] staff to request specific data on the number of over-the-air households that may already have a television with a digital receiver and will not require a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to receive television programming over-the-air,” Martin said.

The FCC would attempt to get the data from parties that voluntarily file comments in the agency’s annual video competition report, Martin indicated.

Citing Nielsen Media Research, Martin said the U.S. had 15.5 million households on Jan. 1, 2007 that rely solely on free, over the air TV. The 15.5 million broadcast-only homes represent about 14% of all U.S. TV households.

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