January 14, 2007
Interactivity and Television Viewing Connected, While People Don't Know About 2009 Digital Deadline

Here's a pre-CES news story that I forgot to mention. CBS released the results of a new study which indicate that people who have a digital television and a broadband Internet connection are also the most likely people to watch the biggest of broadcast network television. In other words, connectivity is linked to viewing.

The study also indicates that this same segment that are connected with both technologies are likely to visit the Web sites for networks often and to stream clips or episodes on the Web in addition to their watching on the television. With the new Apple TV product, these two activities may be increasingly becoming blurred.

Perhaps not surprisingly, "These people tend to be upscale, better educated and more engaged with programs," according to the CBS study. However, I think an important caveat to also include is location, since I've written before about scores of Americans who have both the desire and the capital to have this degree of high connectivity but who are not currently being well-served by Internet providers.

Not to stray too far off subject, though. Connectivity is shown to have a link with primetime television viewing? David Poltrack was quoted by Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek as saying, "Consumers who embrace the new media are the heaviest viewers of the top network prime-time programs, and this sector of the audience is growing. By offering them new ways to connect to their favorite shows ... we're able to deepen the bond these fully connected viewers have with our programming."

However, not nearly as surprising to me is that the survey found that less than 30 percent of Americans are aware of the 2009 deadline for broadcasters to switch to a digital signal, but even half of those people who are unaware have already purchased a digital set, and another 30 percent plan to by 2009. According to the survey, 40 percent of those who were told about the upcoming change said they would upgrade to digital by 2009.

My own anecdotal evidence has found much of the same. Aside from the people I know professionally interested in these issues, friends and family members are completely oblivious to the 2009 digital requirement. I was at home over Christmas and talking to several people about their television purchases or their interest in digital TV sets, and none seemed aware of the primary reason why they might want to buy a digital set by 2009 if they haven't already. One friend, whose family has plenty of capital, have five or six televisions in their house, but none of them prepared for the digital changeover.

I think that there needs to be a massive drive to get the word out throughout the next calendar year, especially since so many people are interested in purchasing flat panel televisions. A primary motivator like this could help drive sales to follow up on the holiday increase in HDTV interest.

Going back to November 2005, one of our first stories here at C3 was about WWE Unlimited, which was causing shock waves by providing content online during commercial breaks for people to view. Advertisers and TV analysts alike were aghast that people would be driven to their computers and miss advertising, although I made the argument--as did others--that people were perhaps more likely not to change the channel and also watch in real-time if they had meaningful live content to watch during the breaks, that is for people who have the capability to have their computer connected and to view while they are watching TV, such as those with laptops and wireless Internet.

Of course, technology makes all the difference, and this survey should also indicate the strong economic incentives for getting these connective technologies to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Oftentimes, lack of access is mistaken for lack of interest. But I can't say I'm surprised at the results of this survey and hope it helps drive interest in increasing transmedia connections between the Internet and traditional television in the coming year.



Most people who do know about the deadline expect it to be delayed. This is one of those things that people do not believe will ever really take place. And, even though I know how much pressure is being brought to bear to stand by the deadline, I am also one of those who expect the date to slip.

Is our kinder, gentler society really going to make 100 million TV sets unusable? Mostly owned by the "less fortunate" among us? It looks like it is, but not before the "advocates for the poor" make a whole lotta noise.


I have my doubts as well, Michael, that they will make the 2009 deadline, but I know there has been talk about conversion devices for all of those who cannot afford a new television.

I don't see how they can just pull the plug on all those people who have no clue that their TV is just going to quit working, without any compensation, especially regarding the elderly. You would think, that, if this were a hard-and-fast deadline, a strong public notification campaign would need to begin RIGHT NOW.