With the nationwide transition to digital TV in the U.S. just four months away, more than 9 million U.S. households remain unready for the switch to all-digital broadcasting, according to Nielsen.
NielsenWire recently spoke with the co-author of Nielsen’s most recent report on the transition to digital TV, Steve McGowan, Senior Vice President, Insights and Client Research Initiatives, Nielsen.
NielsenWire: How has digital preparedness changed since Nielsen's last report this past spring?
Not all that much. Since last May, when 9.8% of homes were "completely unready," the number has dropped by just 1.4 percentage points -- to 8.4%.
NielsenWire: So, how prepared are Americans for the switch to digital TV?
The digital transition in American homes is happening at a casual rate: more than 9 million homes -- that's 8.4% of all U.S. homes -- are still completely unready.
Spanish-language broadcast networks are still more vulnerable: 26% of tuning to these networks is done on "unready TV sets" -- compared to 15% for English-language broadcast networks.
"Unready sets" are disproportionately found in the kitchen or secondary bedroom, as opposed to the living room or master bedroom, and may not get "upgraded" by February -- or ever.
NielsenWire: Which demographics are most -- and least -- prepared for the transition to digital TV?
Readiness rates are correlated with household income and head of household education. Overall, we found that a larger proportion of "unready" homes are African American (12.5%) and Hispanic (13.0%). Homes where Spanish is the primary language are most "unready" for the digital transition.
Perhaps surprisingly to some, readiness rates are higher in older households. Some might expect older people to be less ready for the digital transition, but in fact, they are better prepared, on average.
NielsenWire: What findings, if any, surprised you?
With all the attention given to the coupon program for external digital tuner boxes, to date only one-fourth of the sets that were "upgraded" has one of these boxes. As the transition date approaches, however, more homes may find this to be a better -- and lower-cost -- option than replacing the set altogether, or signing up for cable or satellite access.
NielsenWire: Why is this report still important?
This series of reports tracks how Americans are responding to the conversion process. Given the nation's current economic turmoil, Americans may face additional financial hurdles in replacing or converting unready sets -- we'll be tracking that, as well. As February 17 approaches, Nielsen will step up our reporting to better anticipate how viewing will be affected by the switch.
Get the latest data on digital readiness in the U.S.
Read Nielsen's complete report on digital readiness in the U.S.