The end of analogue television in America marks the beginning of a new era in broadcasting and frees up frequencies for new advanced wireless services. Stations had until midnight local time on Friday 12 June to power down analogue transmitters, effectively marketing the end of analogue television in America. Consumers were generally well prepared. 2.8 million homes were not ready, but that is around half the number some months ago.
Some 800,000 calls were received in the last week from people still confused by the end of analogue television in America. With 4,000 staff standing by on a toll free hotline, the Federal Communications Commission took over 300,000 calls on Friday, the largest number it has ever received in a single day. A third of them were calling about coupons to pay for digital converter boxes. Around another third were from those with problems setting up or using them. Many of these were solved by rescanning for channels.
The Commerce Department received over 400,000 requests for coupons on Friday alone, and about 1.5 million over the week. Almost 60 million coupons have been mailed out in total, with a limit of two per household applying. Coupons will be available until the end of July, while supplies last.
“Yesterday was a truly historic day,” said acting FCC chairman Michael Copps. “For TV broadcasting, it was a final farewell to the Dinosaur Age and the dawn of the Digital Age.”
“Digital will do for television what it has done for every other communications technology it touches–make it better, more efficient, more interactive, more competitive and more exciting than ever before.”
“Things went about as smoothly as we could have hoped,” said FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. “It’s looking more like Y2K than the Bay of Pigs. Certainly, if we had not delayed and prepared, it might have been a disaster. But with the additional time, resources and actual planning, we put things in order just in time.”
Based on the same samples that it uses to provide television ratings, Nielsen estimates that 2.8 million homes, around 2.5% of the American television market, were still not prepared for the switch off. That figure is half the number that would have been affected had the change gone ahead as originally planned in February.
African American, Hispanic and Asian homes were still among the least prepared. Those under 35 were still less likely to be ready for digital than those over 55.
An additional 9.5 million homes still have some receivers that were reliant on analogue broadcasts.
The majority of viewers were unaware of the change because around 85% of the population subscribes to a television service provider rather than relying on free to air broadcast signals.