Faster Forward: World apparently failed to end after digital-TV transition

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By Rob Pegoraro
Thursday, June 17, 2010; 3:07 PM

Was it really just a year ago that television watchers across the United States were cringing in fear about the demise of most analog over-the-air broadcasts?

No. It was a year and five days ago--but I forgot the anniversary. (Sorry, digital TV! I don't know how it slipped my mind. You still mean everything to me, I promise!)

After the initial drama of the switchover on June 12, 2009--and the subsequent, intermittent struggles by over-the-air viewers to lock in the new signals, in some cases with help from local stations that boosted their signals--this story has faded from the headlines and from my inbox.

These days, the most common DTV query may be what to do with an old analog TV that's outlived its usefulness. (Here's my advice on how to recycle the set.)

Ars Technica, in its own survey of the transition--also published a few days after the anniversary--concluded that it turned out to be a non-event. As evidence, it cited a Nielsen study reporting that by last October, only 0.5 percent of U.S. households had no TVs capable of tuning into digital broadcasts, down from an already small 2.5 percent that June.

The Nielsen study also found that by the end of last August, three-quarters of analog over-the-air viewers had added a converter box to their old sets, while one quarter had switched to cable or satellite. The study did not address how many viewers had dropped a pay-TV service in favor of over-the-air digital TV, Internet video or a combination of the two.

I know those viewers exist: I am one. (For those of you asking about my promised update on that experiment, I'm still working on that post.) But how many? A subsequent Nielsen research suggested that "cord cutters" are confined to demographic minorities, while a Yankee Group study released in April predicted that one in eight TV subscribers would reduce or drop their TV service this year.

You tell me: Have you replaced any of your pay-TV consumption with free over-the-air broadcasts? If so, how much? Which channels does your set pick up without trouble; what have you had to do to pull in others; and which ones refuse to appear on your set? Also, what kind of role does Web video play in your viewing schedule?


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