DTV Transition: The End is Nigh!

Due in part to maneuvering by some Republican Senators, Democratic Representative Henry Waxman has postponed a vote on his bill to delay the cut-off of analog television broadcasts for another four months. So the clock continues to tick, and we’re now down to 25 days. (You can get your own DTV digital clock at http://www.dtv.gov/dtvcountdowns.html.) Clearly, we’re running out of time to try to call a timeout on this one.

And here’s a sign that at least one retailer agrees; CompUSA.com (now part of the Tiger consumer electronics empire) sent out email flyers yesterday leading with offers on two digital converter models. After rebate coupon, they cost $4.99 or $9.99. (I have not tested these two products — both of which have analog pass-through connections — but the user reviews are mixed at best, with the less-expensive model getting better scores.) It is also interesting that CompUSA.com has a limited exchange policy on the less expensive model. It could be that the company wants to limit their exposure on returns of this class of product.

Sales for converter boxes will likely last about a month after the transition, and then taper off to nearly nothing. This means that retailers who still have stock in inventory are likely to be stuck with the boxes. And given the anticipated problems with fringe area reception, there’s a significant chance that some buyers will switch to cable or satellite service, and want to return their converter boxes for a refund. So if the transition does not get postponed, the boxes left in inventory will have about as much value as candy canes at a SuperBowl sale. As a result, brace yourself for a marketing blitz over the next few weeks as the stores try to move the products.