Digital Transition Awareness Up, But So Is Consumer Confusion

Mar 24, 2008, 01:00 ET from Frank N. Magid Associates

    LOS ANGELES, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumer confusion about the
 coming transition from analog to digital broadcasting that takes place on
 February 17, 2009, remains high. According to a Frank N. Magid Associates
 online tracking study, six in ten Americans are now aware of the scheduled
 change. While this is up significantly from just six months ago, 80 million
 American adults remain unaware of the digital broadcasting mandate less
 than one year away. These facts are revealed in the first study on the
 subject since the broadcasting and cable industries began promoting their
 intensified effort to educate consumers about the impact of the upcoming
     In an online survey, Magid Media Futures(TM) tracked more than 1,000
 consumers' educated awareness of the digital broadcast transition and their
 adoption of high definition television. With less than 11 months to go
 until the actual transition date, many organizations involved in
 broadcasting, cable, satellite and consumer electronics are concerned about
 consumer preparedness.
     Initial findings suggest that the combined efforts of the U.S.
 government and the many industries committed to educating consumers about
 digital television are having a positive impact on both awareness of the
 transition and specific details about the impact of the transition on TV
 viewers. After languishing in the 30 to 40 percent range for several years
 now, consumer awareness of local broadcasters' digital signals jumped from
 34 percent in September 2007 to 59 percent in February 2008.
     "Our firm has been tracking consumer awareness of digital television
 for nearly 10 years now, really since the U.S. government announced the
 first transition date in 1998 of April 2006. Once that deadline changed,
 consumer awareness dropped off again," said Maryann Baldwin, Vice President
 of Magid Media Futures(TM). "But with a true countdown upon us now, this
 growth in awareness proves the power of the coordinated education effort
 among all parties involved. There is still much work to be done, but the
 initial progress is encouraging."
     In a similar study conducted in 2002, 42 percent of consumers said they
 were aware of digital television. That awareness dropped to a low of 28
 percent in 2004; however, in 2008 it has more than doubled. An encouraging
 finding here is that those residing in "over-the-air-only" homes -- those
 most significantly impacted by the analog broadcast shutoff -- show a
 higher level of awareness at 63 percent, up from 35 percent last fall.
     Also evident in the Magid study is consumers' ability to identify
 statements that accurately characterize the impact of the digital
 transition. "Our findings last fall were definitely cause for concern, with
 only one-third of consumers aware that some people would not be able to
 receive local television transmissions, and only 12 percent aware that a
 government program would be available to assist those who need to acquire a
 digital receiver," reports Baldwin.
     Highlights from results tracking findings from September 2007 to
 February 2008 include:
-- Awareness of the fact that some consumers, with current TV reception arrangements, will not be able to receive TV signals after the transition increased from 35 percent to 52 percent. -- Satellite and cable customers aware they will be able to receive local TV signals through their provider's service after the transition, regardless of their TV tuner type, grew from 27 percent to 45 percent. At the same time, certain concerns emerge. The group of consumers who believe that the digital transition means that all television programming will be available in high definition also grew during this period, from 23 percent to 29 percent. While digital transmission will make the delivery of high- definition content possible over the air, it does not mean that all channels and networks will actually offer all of their programming in high definition. "If this trend in consumer expectations continues, cable and satellite television providers will want to prepare for an onslaught of customer questions in the coming months," says Jill Rosengard Hill, Vice President and Managing Director at Frank N. Magid Associates. "If a large proportion of HD customers expect that their entire channel lineup will be presented in high definition on February 17, there will be customer frustration and the switchboards will light up." Currently, 32 percent of those who subscribe to cable or satellite HD service believe this to be true. Finally, there is encouraging news about the government's coupon program to subsidize digital-to-analog converter-box purchases among those who need them most. Not only have 53 percent of consumers heard about the program overall, but 64 percent of those who depend on over-the-air signals for television reception have heard about the program. Twenty-nine percent of over-the-air-only consumers report that they have already applied for their coupons. The NTIA began fulfilling consumer requests for these coupons in late February. Magid conducted this online research among 1,200 consumers nationally representative of the U.S. online population, age 21 and over. A written report on the study is now available for purchase. Contact Jill Rosengard Hill at 212-515-4523 or Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc., founded in 1957, is the world leader in providing research-based strategy solutions to a variety of businesses representing all aspects of the media, entertainment, and communication industries. With nearly 350 employees operating out of offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Minneapolis, and Cedar Rapids, Magid serves hundreds of clients in more than 35 countries worldwide. Magid works with its clients to achieve success by gathering exceptional consumer insights and developing and executing strategies that maximize client performance. The valuable perspectives gained over thousands of engagements and millions of consumer interviews and observations have also made Magid highly sought after among business leaders and investors as they map out the future. The company's Magid Media Futures(TM) unit is recognized as providing highly predictive and prescriptive data-driven insights on the future of media. More recently, Magid's Millennial Strategy Program(TM) is helping operators and investors develop successful strategies to access this potent consumer segment.

SOURCE Frank N. Magid Associates