92,000 Phoenix households not ready for DTV

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PHOENIX -- A new Nielsen study shows that nearly 5 percent of Phoenix television viewers aren't ready for the imminent switch to DTV, which is scheduled for completion on June 12 -- less than two weeks away.

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92,000 Phoenix households not ready for DTV - A new Nielsen study shows that nearly 5 percent of Phoenix television viewers aren't ready for the imminent switch to DTV, which is scheduled for completion on June 12 -- less than two weeks away.

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Nationwide, some 3.1 million households are unaware of the switch, which was originally slated for February but delayed by the Obama administration because people needed more time to prepare.

If the switch were to happen today, viewers in about 92,000 homes in the Phoenix area would see nothing but snow on their TVs. The change from analog transmission to digital transmission was mandated by Congress years ago and requires full-power television stations like 3TV and CW6 to broadcast in digital only. That means people who want to watch free television have to either invest in a digital TV or buy a relatively inexpensive converter box for their analog sets.

If you watch DTV via cable or satellite, you're all set. You don't need to do a thing. If you use an antenna, however, there are a few things you need to know. The main thing is that if you do not have an HD set, you'll need a converter box to watch TV. This box changes the incoming digital signal into an analog signal that your TV understands.

The boxes are available at most electronics stores. You can also apply for a $40 government coupon to help cover the cost. You're allowed two per household. Here in Phoenix, nearly 850,000 of the FCC coupon have been requested, but only about half have been redeemed.

For those who are confused about how the converter boxes work, Kearney Electric Communications has teamed up with Goodwill of Central Arizona to do some demonstrations over the next couple of weeks. At clinics hosted at various Goodwill stores, people can learn exactly how to set up the converter boxes, as well as get more information about those government coupons.

Digital television is supposed to give people a clearer picture and better sound. In a soft test last week, however, Phoenix was found to be the third worst in the country when it comes to being prepared. With nearly 5 percent of its viewers not ready for the impending switchover, Phoenix is well over the national average of 2.7 percent. Only Dallas-Fort Worth and Albuquerque were less ready.

While digital signals are already available here in Phoenix, Nielsen estimated that about 15 percent of the Valley's television viewers rely on the analog signal, the one that's going away on June 12.