Digital TV Transition Train Wreck

Nielsen released a report last week indicating that 22% of U.S. TV households are either totally or partially unprepared for the digital TV transition next February (or Labor Day, if you’re in Wilmington, NC). Some of the markets with the highest percentage of unprepared households include Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Portland (Oregon), and Houston. The report also indicates that a disproportionate share of the unprepared households are Hispanic.

Nielsen estimates that there are about 10 million totally unprepared households. This is only an improvement of about 3 million households since Nielsen released a similar report last February. And while 86 percent of households have cable or satellite TV service — when means that those televisions won’t be affected by the transition — many of those homes have “secondary” TV sets that are not hooked up to cable or satellite. This results in the large number of “partially” unprepared.

The report does not indicate one way or the other, but there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence that it households with lower income are more likely to be in the unprepared category. I also expect that senior households are overrepresented in the unprepared category. I expect that these groups are going have a more difficult time than others in getting their sets ready for the transition. And given the slow change in the numbers since February, we can look forward to millions of these people losing their TV service when analog broadcasts cease in February.