Friday, February 13, 2009

Delays, Delays, Delays

The groundhog saw his shadow, which means four more months of PSA's pounding on you to prepare for digital TV.

The cutoff date for analog TV has been moved back to June 12, which means you have more time to go digital. This is good news for procrastinators, since you now have until June 11 to apply for a converter box coupon and then complain to your congressman you'll be left "in the dark" when American TV goes digital. You'll overload the coupon distribution system again, Obama will cave, and we'll have astronauts walking on Mars before my station can finally shut down that 1979 RCA Power Hog 6000 rattling along in the transmitter room. Thanks.

Local TV stations needed an extension of the deadline like they needed another Rosie O'Donnel variety show. Budgets had been set, plans drawn, tower crews scheduled, all based on the assumption that they could shut down their analog transmitters by February 17. One station I know in Dayton will have to shut off the analog on the original date whether anybody likes it or not. Before they can install the permanent digital transmitter antenna on their tower, they have to remove the old analog antenna. And they can't remove the old analog antenna if they have to keep it on the air. So, if you ever want to watch CBS in Dayton, Ohio, stop messing around and let us do our jobs!

Local stations aren't the only ones taking it up the shoot with this extension. Networks hedged their bets that February would be a ratings dog due to the switchover and, in some cases, wandering channels in certain cities. (Some TV stations are running their digital signals on temporary low-power channels until they can the *@&% analog off their permanent and original channel.) Thinking ahead, the networks persuaded the ratings company Nielson to move the ratings period or "Sweeps" from February to March. So, this year, we have a March Sweeps. This extended the season for many of our favorites programs, thus costing the networks more money to keep the reruns from hitting until April, and even then jumping back in with original episodes for the May Sweeps. And now the switchover isn't happening until June. It's enough to make a network executive seriously consider going into Public Television.

But on the bright side, this is all good for the viewers. Fewer reruns, more time to shop for a new TV, and maybe the prices of those TV's will drop even lower before the cutoff.

In the meantime, maybe they can get that Oxyclean guy to do the DTV conversion PSA's. Maybe Billy Mays can motivate the procrastinators into making the switch. Or they'll just turn off the TV and watch Hulu.

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