Groups Join for DTV Effort

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The Consumer Electronics Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association are joining forces to create a campaign to educate consumers about the eventual transition to all-digital television broadcasting.

The details of the campaign are still under development, but the two groups expect the efforts to focus on public-service announcements, an enhanced retailer sales-force push, outreach via on-demand services, bilingual materials and comprehensive communications with cable customers.

Congress has set a “hard date” of Feb. 17, 2009 for all television stations to switch off their analog transmitters. At that time, an estimated 45 million television sets in 20 million households could go dark, unless their owners obtain analog-to-digital converters or subscribe to digital cable or direct-broadcast satellite.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, noted that the sale of high-definition television sets is estimated to outpace the sale of analog sets this year. With a hard date set for the transition to digital, the nation is in the “home stretch to completing this historic transition.”

“As we continue this journey, all industries involved have a responsibility to educate consumers about this exciting new era in television,” he said in a statement.

NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow added that it is clear there is a general lack of awareness of the impending transition to all-digital broadcasting and its implications for home viewers.

CEA has already launched educational efforts. That trade association operates four Web sites: www.antenna.org, www.CEAconnectionsguide.com, www.ce.org/hdtv and www.myceknowhow.com. The latter includes resources to help train retailers, including an online certification training program, with downloadable tip sheets, brochures and point-of-purchase materials.

The NCTA noted that 96 million homes are now passed by a cable system that offers high-definition programming services. That includes the top 100 TV markets and nearly 90% of TV households.

However, consumer research indicates that while consumers are buying HDTV sets, only about half of them are signing up for the enhanced programming: An estimated 16 million of the sets have been purchased, but only 8 million are subscribing to HD fare.

The two associations will try to work with local governments and community officials to extend the informational outreach. The joint education program will supplement each association’s ongoing DTV informational initiatives.

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