Nielsen: Almost 10% of U.S. Unready for Digital Transition

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Nearly 10% of U.S. households are completely unprepared for the transition to all-digital broadcast signals next February, Nielsen said Tuesday.

The ratings company issued that finding in a seven-page report it released on the “digital readiness” of U.S. households. The report looked at how many Americans have TV sets that are equipped to receive digital signals when broadcasters start transmitting them exclusively, rather than analog signals, Feb. 17, 2009.

Nielsen found that 78% of households are completely ready for the transition, while 12.6% are “partially unready,” or have some TV sets that can’t receive digital signals. Another 9.4% are classified as “completely unready,” with no TV sets equipped to receive digital signals.

In anticipation of problems with the transition next year, Nielsen has already said it will push back the February sweeps period until March.

African-American and Hispanic households are behind the general market in terms of being ready for the digital transition, according to Nielsen.

“In terms of ethnicity, Hispanic households would be most impacted if the DTV transition occurred today,” Nielsen said. “Although they make up 11.3% of the total U.S., Hispanic households currently make up 19.9% of completely unready households.”

In homes where the head of the household is black, 16.3% of those homes are completely unready for the digital transition.

Nielsen also outlined which of the 56 local markets are least prepared, and most prepared, for the digital transition. Milwaukee had the highest penetration of completely unprepared households, with 18.3%. Hartford-New Haven, Conn., had the lowest penetration of completely unready homes, 3.1%, Nielsen said.

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