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Musical Chairs: The DTV Converter Market

August 28, 2009 | Author: Ibex Marketing

Remember playing “musical chairs” when you were a kid? The adults would make sure that there was one less chair available than kids, and then set you marching around in a circle until the music stopped, and then the kid who didn’t get a seat was eliminated? And the process repeated until one final victor was crowned? Little did we realize that we were getting metaphorical training for capitalistic enterprise.

In the market for digital TV converter boxes, the music stopped soon after June 12, when the full power stations ended their analog broadcasts. But instead of just pulling away one chair, pretty much all the chairs got folded up and moved back to the storeroom. Which would have been fine except that there were still thousands of converter boxes still out on the dance floor.

So what happens when you have lots of players and it’s much harder to find a seat? The players lower their sights, and will do just about anything to recover something from their investment. An interesting article in TV Technology piqued my curiosity, so I decided to go looking into what sort of deals the procrastinators might find.

As the TV Technology story indicated, there are hundreds of converter boxes offered for sale on eBay. As I write this, there are still the hopeful profiteers who think they’re going to get $60 or more for their converters, but for every one of these, there are a dozen sellers looking to get $10 or less and that includes shipping. I decided to check out Craig’s List to see what local markets are like, and where the sellers are offering a firm price (no auction involved). In the Philadelphia listings, there are plenty of converter boxes being offered for $10, and in some cases, that includes a used analog TV as well!

Clearly, the folks who got a second $40 rebate coupon from the government, thinking that they would be able to resell their extra converted box for a profit, have missed their opportunity (if it ever existed at all). The bottom line is that it probably will not be worth your time to try to sell a converter box at this point, since the market is so flooded with inventory. If you have an extra converter box that you don’t need, my advice is to make a few calls to local elderly residential facilities or social service agencies, and see if you can donate it to a needy recipient. We can always use a little extra good kharma.