A screen shot of the digital TV transition
Apex Digital TV converter boxes are displayed at a Best Buy store in Emeryville, Calif.
TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bob Moon: D-Day has arrived for more than 400 TV stations across the country. "D," as in digital. Although President Obama signed an extension giving stations the option to delay shutting down their analog signals until June 12th, many decided to go ahead with the switch -- most as of midnight. Stations have been advertising the change for months with public service announcements, on-screen message crawls and fliers. Nevertheless, the FCC reports its D-TV help centers have fielded tens of thousands of calls. Here to paint the picture on the first day out is VP of Digital TV for the National Association of Broadcasters Jonathan Collegio. Thanks for joining us.
COLLEGIO: Absolutely, thank you for having me.
MOON: The FCC says call centers received some 28,000 calls. I know you all have been doing your own research around the transition. What have you found?
COLLEGIO: Well we know that there have been calls to local television stations and the FCC for help. Generally, stations have been receiving between 50 and 200 calls. Now, some areas are hotspots with more calls, but by and large, call volume has been lower than we expected. YOu have to remember that the households affected by the stations going all digital yesterday was about 12 million households across the country. So to have 28,000 calls relative to 12 million houses affected is a very low number.
MOON: Now a lot of these stations didn't switch off the analog signal until midnight though, so are you expecting a wave of calls when prime time hits?
COLLEGIO: You know, it's difficult to calculate the peaks of these call patterns, but yeah, they'll definitely be more calls when folks get home and by the time they get around to realizing that oh goodness I failed to upgrade or goodness I failed to re-scan my converter box. A lot of folks don't realize that because a lot of stations move around when the digital television happens they actually have to go and re-scan their television sets or their converter boxes in order to make sure that they're getting all the channels that are out there. That's the number one problem.
MOON: Is there a risk that some of these people have made the switch that they need to make, but they just aren't going to get the signal?
COLLEGIO: Well that's going to be case in some areas. The FCC tried to identify areas where the coverage would be different between the analog stations and the digital stations. And they identified somewhere between 200 and 300 television stations where there would be a substantial net change. These things are very very difficult to calculate because I mean even when you run all the logarithms and all that, if you try to figure out where the signal's going to be strong, there are a lot of exceptions to it. You know, if someone has a really good antenna, they won't be affected. If somebody has a bad antenna, they may not be getting a signal that they should be getting.
MOON: If this is playing out as smoothly as you suggested it is, do you think it would have been to just make the switch yesterday rather than have some stations shut down and other stations continue on for a few months?
COLLEGIO: I mean I would say that the D TV transition is going well. I mean, it's not without its bumps, but it's certainly smoother than anyone would have imagined that it was going to go two years ago. In fact before Congress changed the date, more people could name February 17th, 2009 as D-TV day than could name April 15th as tax day, and that happens every year. Now, by changing the date, the industry is basically going to have to go and re-brand a whole new date, but we've done that before and we're confident that in the end folks are going to know about the new date.
MOON: Jonathan Collegio is VP of Digital TV for the National Association of Broadcasters. Thanks for joining us.
COLLEGIO: Thank you very much for having me.