Nielsen: Five Million Homes Remain Unready for DTV Transition

More are ready for switch than at beginning of month, NAB refutes some of the research numbers

Nielsen said Wednesday that more that five million homes, or about 4.4% of the total, remain unready for the DTV transition.

That was down from 5.8 million homes (5.1%) that Nielsen concluded weren't ready at the beginning of the month, and from 6.5 million (5.7%) in mid-January.

Albuquerque-Santa Fe is the least prepared, says Nielsen, with 12% completely unready.

Nielsen defines completely unready as homes without cable or satellite service and without a TV with a digital tuner or a DTV-to-analog converter box hooked up. The ratings company concedes some of those homes could have the converter boxes, just not hooked up yet.

The National Association of Broadcasters takes issue with the un-readiness figure. In a release Wednesday, NAB suggested that the early returns on the Feb. 17 switch of 421 stations to DTV broadcasts suggested no major problems, with no flood of calls to stations it had checked with and most of the issues resolved over the phone.

Back in January, Jonathan Collegio, the National Association of Broadcasters point person on the DTV transition, argued that the Nielsen figure overstates DTV un-readiness since it does not take into account people who have applied or are waiting for the coupon. "If somebody is waiting for a coupon, they are not technologically capable of receiving digital at that moment," he says, "but it is not like they are completely unready. They are ready enough to have taken the initiative to apply for a coupon."

He also pointed out that the Nielsen converter box figure does not take into account people who have the boxes but haven't hooked them up yet. "Our research shows that two-thirds of converter box owners have not installed their converter boxes yet, which suggests that this number is a bit inflated," he says.

NAB was right to be concerned about the Nielsen un-readiness figure. It became a major talking point in Congress during the debate that ultimately resulted in the FCC moving the DTV hard date to June 12, which resulted in a kind of four-month rolling date, with some stations going Feb. 17, some June 12, and likely some in between.