Over the next few days people in 2.8 million homes will lose their television service. That’s how many households that The Nielson Co. reports are completely unready for the transition from analog to digital television.
Friday, June 12 is the deadline for converting all full-powered U.S. television stations from analog to digital transmission. That means homes that have not switched to a digital provider or installed a converter box will lose their service.
And in these tight economic times, helping consumers make the transition from analog to DTV is an opportunity that home systems integrators have been pursuing.
“Yes, it is an opportunity for integrators because of the awareness of the issue,” says Kevin Mikelonis, of Process Dealer Services Group, an integrator in Paso Robles, Calif. Because the issue has gotten so much attention over the past several months, systems integrators can make more headway talking about the issue with customers, he says. And, although it’s typically a low-paying job, it could provide the opening to a discussion about other products or services.
Peter Cannone, CEO of OnForce, an online marketplace for IT service jobs, says that his company has seen a surge in service events to do this kind of work over the last 35 to 40 days.
“The price ranges anywhere from $30 to $80 for this job,” Cannone says. “It’s an easy-in, easy-out type of job. There may be a couple of tweaks that makes it a bigger job, but it doesn’t take long for a tech to go in and set up a converter.”
And while many businesses also have televisions in the workplace, Cannone says he has not seen a surge in jobs to convert businesses from analog to digital. He believes that’s because many businesses have already made the switch to digital, perhaps as part of an effort to equip themselves for more video conferencing in order to cut back on travel expenses.
Ric Johnson, owner of Elite Systems Solutions, in Waynesfield, Ohio, started actively pursuing the DTV conversion business in October 2008 by presenting sessions at community meetings and talking about it at a few local home shows.
“We’ve had quite a few calls about it, but when we talk to the client we end up not doing anything at all,” he says. “Sometimes they are already on digital cable or satellite service or using a local microwave over-the-air cable, and you don’t need a converter box for those.”
In total, Johnson’s company has done just 17 conversions from analog to digital. He’s charged $75 for converting a single television and $100 for converting two televisions. His company has told consumers where to go to get the coupons to buy the converter boxes. But in the end, many people decided to go with a satellite TV provider instead.
“This has not been a big opportunity for us,” Johnson said. Johnson says that the local Best Buy store charges $110 to install the converter boxes.
However, every little bit counts these days. Like just about everyone else, business is down for Johnson’s company this year—by about 25 percent compared with this time last year. New construction jobs are few and far between, however, retrofit work for previous customers remains steady, and commercial work for medical offices and banks remains fairly steady too, Johnson reports.
The deadline for converting broadcast transmissions from analog to digital was extended by three months last February because 5.8 million homes were deemed completely unready for the transition. Since then, the number of unprepared homes has been cut in half to 2.8 million.
“Given the importance that television plays in the day-to-day life of most people, we expect that most of the remaining unready homes will take the necessary steps to get ready once the stations make the final switch to digital transmission,” says Sara Erichson, president of Media Client Services at Nielsen. “We will continue to follow this trend closely.”