More Homes Prepare for DTV Transition

Nielsen has posted their latest estimate of how many U.S. households remain unprepared for the end of analog TV broadcasts in June. With just over two months left to go, the number of households has been cut nearly in half from December to now, leaving only 4.1 million homes still not ready according to Nielsen; this is 3.6% of the national total. That represents more than a million homes per month have gone from unprepared to at least partially prepared since December.

I’m now ready to say that I was wrong, at least in part, if Nielsen’s numbers are accurate. One of the most startling figures is that the population segment showing the most improvement was the “Over 55” portion. They’ve gone from 5.2% unprepared in December to just 2.0% in March. I’ve been particularly concerned about the elderly making the transition smoothly, and it would appear that the situation is better than I expected. (It’s not clear whether the Nielsen numbers include those residents of elderly group homes that do not provide cable service; this could amount to a sizable number.) And I thought that we would not see a lot of change between February and June, which is why Congress delayed the transition. The trajectory of the improvement is definitely flattening out, so we may not see as much change in the next two months as we’ve seen in the last two, but the situation is still improving.

On the other hand, I continue to be concerned about the low-income population. According to Nielsen’s numbers, Hispanic households have only gone from 11.5% unprepared in December to 6.1% unprepared in March. That’s a big percentage drop, but the remainder is much higher than the national average. And for African American households, the drop has been from 10.8% to 6.6%. I expect that the rate of change for these two segments is likely to go flat over the next two months, and these people will be disproportionately unprepared for the end of analog broadcasts. I expect that there is also a correlation between income level and the unprepared portion of these groups, though Nielsen doesn’t report on this factor. While I don’t believe that having free television broadcasts is a fundamental right of U.S. citizens, I do believe that television provides an important source of news and information, and so it is in society’s interest as a whole to do what we can to see that these people aren’t left out by the transition.