The Cruel Reality of the Digital TV Transition

The harsh truth: If you do not have cable or a satellite dish at this point (more than 85% of U.S. households do), you are either A) economically disadvantaged or B) don’t care enough about watching television to ante up. Either way, you’re not of much use to the television business — and thus not a priority to them.

Of course, there are other sub-sets of the non-cable camp, including those who consciously choose not to have a TV set (though they account for only about 1% of U.S. homes) or those who have fallen in love with Netflix, DVD rentals or watching video on their computer who can bypass cable or a dish. Those people, however, won’t be inconvenienced by the transition from analog to digital transmission.

Nielsen’s latest survey found that only 2.5% of U.S. households are still unprepared for the digital switch, which still amounts to about 2.8 million homes. Intuitively I suspect the actual number is somewhat higher than that, and that several million people will be left howling and confused when the TV they’ve been getting with rabbit ears goes dark on Friday.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the NBA Finals, Los Angeles is among the least-prepared markets based on percentage of population at 4.46% (or sixth among the 56 metered markets), which is going to leave some ticked-off people with Lakers flags attached to their car windows when Game 5 rolls around Sunday. By contrast, Orlando is the 12th best-prepared market at 1.45%.

So cheer up, Magic fans. You can chant “Beat L.A.” and be right on at least one level.

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