WZMY-TV Boston is volunteering to be a digital guinea pig. The MyNetworkTV affiliate says it will make the transition to digital at noon on Dec. 1, two-and-a-half months before the official switch to digital Feb. 17, 2009.
The FCC is allowing broadcasters to switch as much as 90 days early so long as they inform their viewers. That allows some stations facing tough winters to make the move when it is easier to switch-out equipment.
"By volunteering to undertake its transition to digital early, MyTV will provide viewers in metropolitan Boston and southern New Hampshire with a 'first look' at the digital broadcast transition," said the station in announcing the early cut-off. "If consumers in these areas find that they are no longer receiving MyTV after 12 PM on December 1, they’ll know what to expect from their televisions in February of next year, when the rest of the area’s local TV stations go digital. And viewers can take steps to become digital ready now.
WZMY-TV says it is teaming with Comcast to help get the word out to viewers about the switch. Cable operators have begun to tailor their DTV education messages to woo some analog-only households to cable service. A recent Nielsen study found that a third of such households are preparing for the DTV switch by subscribing to cable or satellite.
Earlier this week, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell suggested that stations should get together with cable and satellite companies to produce such long-form DTV education infomercials.
The station and Comcast will jointly produce a 30-minute educational program on their switch that will air on the station and on-demand on Comcast systems in the Boston area as well as northern New Hampshire. Although cable subs won't need to do anything to continue to see their local channels, they could inform friends and neighbors, or may have a second or third set not hooked up to cable.