Wal-Mart Stores said Monday it has stocked Magnavox digital-to-analog TV converters in its 3,400 U.S. retail locations, as the government prepares to start issuing $40 coupons for the boxes starting next week.
The boxes will allow analog TVs to continue receiving over-the-air broadcasts after Feb. 17, 2009, when local TV stations are required to cease their analog broadcasts.
According to the National Telecommunications and Information Association, the Commerce Department agency administering the coupon program, the first $40 coupons will be mailed out next week to individuals who have requested them.
At that point, NTIA expects several retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, RadioShack and others, to be able to accept coupons and have certified converters available on store shelves.
Wal-Mart, for one, says it’s ready. The company said Magnavox digital-converter boxes from Phillips Electronics are currently available in all its locations at a retail price of $49.87 (or $9.87, with an NTIA-issued coupon). Wal-Mart expects to stock a second DTV converter box in the coming months.
“Due to our many locations, we expect the majority of customers will come to us for making their digital transition plan, both for convenience and price,” Wal-Mart senior vice president of home entertainment Gary Severson said in a statement.
The world’s largest retailer also provides in-store kiosks to let customers sign up for cable or satellite service, with the help of a sales associate.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based behemoth said it has worked closely with the NTIA to develop additional training for employees, and that it has enhanced its cash registers so that the $40 coupon card can be redeemed as easily as a gift card.
Consumers can apply for digital converter box coupons online at www.dtv2009.gov or via phone at 1-888-DTV-2009. The coupons expire 90 days after they’re issued.
Last week, the NTIA said consumers have requested more than 4.4 million coupons since they were first offered on Jan. 1.
Still, almost one-third of Americans with analog TVs are unaware of the Feb. 17, 2009, transition, according to a Consumer Reports research study conducted in December. The survey found 61% either incorrectly believe that they are not affected, do not know that they are affected or are completely unaware of the transition.