SAN FRANCISCOIf the switchover from analog to digital television broadcast doesn't happen as scheduled Feb. 17, it won't be for lack of digital-to-analog converter boxes, according to a study released Friday (Jan. 16) by market research firm Digital Tech Consulting (DTC).
Retailers and manufacturers have shipped an estimated 33.5 million digital-to-analog converter boxes into the U.S. marketplace, and approximately 9 million boxes are still available for customers who have waited until the last minute to make a purchase, according to DTC's research.
The transition has been scheduled since Congress mandated it in 2006. But with a month left to go, several peopleincluding U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and members of the Federal Communications Commissionare advocating for the switch to be pushed back. The U.S. government said early this month that it had run out of $40 discount coupons for consumers to help pay for the converter boxes, and some fear that many viewers are unaware of, and unprepared for, the switch.
Myra Moore, principal at DTC (Dallas) said the availability of coupons is a separate issue. But, she said, manufacturers and retailers have held up their end of the bargain, ensuring the equipment was available to support the switch.
After some shortages in the first quarter of 2008, when only 1.3 million converter boxes were sold, retailers made some changes to their supplier roster, Moore said. As a result, shipments of converter boxes increased by 49 percent in the second quarter, another 64 percent in the third quarter and nearly 100 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Moore.
"While the Congress works out the last-minute issues surrounding the waiting list for government coupons, the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] program has resulted in sales of nearly 20 million coupon-eligible converter boxes," Moore said. "And our research shows that as many as four million additional boxes have been sold to consumers without coupons."
Moore said the market for the converter boxes has been even stronger than DTC's original forecast of 30 million units, which some said was too generous. She noted that the coupon program has obviously help boost sales.
DTC's findings are the result of analysis of government data, interviews with converter box manufacturers and component suppliers and discussions with major retailers, the firm said.