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Does Friday’s DTV Transition Deadline Matter to CE Pros?

Missed opportunity or the June 12 boon is overblown -- you make the call.

With its site, Zip Express provides DTV transition information while promoting its antenna packages.
Tom LeBlanc · June 10, 2009

Friday, June 12 is essentially the second analog to DTV transition deadline because President Obama signed a bill to delay the original Feb. 17 deadline.

Even with a four-month extension, it doesn’t appear that the custom electronics industry has come up with a formula for capitalizing on the built-in demand for TV upgrades and knowledge.

There may be good reason for that. After all, the 2.8 million homes that still remain unprepared for the switch probably aren’t electronic enthusiasts. In other words, they’re big-box store customers.

However, demand is demand and maybe that attitude is narrow-minded.

Then again, maybe CE pros are smart not to waste promotional dollars targeting an ill-fitting audience.

One thing is for sure: the DTV transition is coming at a bad time. Mired in a recession, consumers aren’t as likely to justify upgrading their TVs as they are to take the cheaper option of buying a converter box. Ironically, the economy won’t benefit with the boon it might have if it were healthier.

OnForce, a nationwide network of 13,000 service professionals, sees evidence of this, according to CEO Peter Cannone. He says OnForce is doing more service on existing TVs and obviously converter box installations, but consumers are finding it hard to justify TV upgrades.

“A year ago, we would have expected a bigger spike, but the mindset of the consumer has totally changed; it’s survival mode,” Cannone says. However, he expects pent-up demand for TV upgrades to stimulate the market in the coming months.

Promotional Ideas

So what, if anything, can CE pros do to capitalize on the transition and beyond? 

One possibility is for CE pros to leverage the increased awareness and buzz surrounding HDTV, wrote Mike Hench, president of The Edge Distributors Group, in a CE Pro column.

If nothing else, the DTV transition offers CE pros an opportunity to reach out to past clients, according to CE Pro columnist Fred Harding of Capitol Sales. He suggests asking them if they need a set-top box for any extra TVs, opening the door to other product need conversations.

There are countless promotional opportunities for CE pros, according to Jeannette Howe, executive director of buying group Specialty Electronics Nationwide. She lists several, including participating in radio shows, hosting a “converter box demo day” and leveraging a “digital countdown” in local advertising.

As the deadline looms, are CE pros missing an opportunity or is June 12 just another day?

Following are tactics that some electronics outlets are using to leverage the DTV transition.

RadioShack: Education and Advice
It issued a press release indicating that it’s reminding consumers to make sure they rescan their digital-to-analog converter boxes after June 12, since some digital stations will move down the dial.

It’s also offering a DTV Transition Learning Course, which is available for free online.

OnForce: Whatever it Takes
Although Cannone acknowledges that a recession isn’t an ideal time for the transition, it does serve to fill his company’s and his network’s installation pipeline.

There is an opportunity for CE pros, he says, to become part of the OnForce network. This means they can either expand their footprints by using OnForce’s network of installers to do converter box and satellite system installations or their own technicians can keep busy during slow times doing those installations.

“Any type of work that can be done they need to say ‘yes’ to,” Cannone says. “That’s where OnForce can help them.”

Although OnForce isn’t doing any DTV transition promotions per se, Cannone says its service providers’ ability to buy products wholesale allows them to be “hyper competitive” with big box stores.

Best Buy: FAQs
A section of its Web site is dedicated to answering questions about the transition. At the top, it lists three major solutions: “buy a converter box,” “subscribe to a paid TV service” or “buy a TV with a built-in digital tuner.” Click on each and it explains how Best Buy can help you go that route.

Zip Express: Interactive Site
The nationwide electronics installer has a Web site,, dedicated to explaining, reporting on and blogging about the transition. Of course, it also promotes some Zip Express digital antenna package deals. Hype
June 8–12 is “High Def Week” on What a coincidence!

The online retailer actually doesn’t link a lot of its promotion to the DTV transition. It seems to be more about Father’s Day, which is nine days later.

What are you doing? If you are doing nothing, why? Leave a comment below.

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  About the Author

Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at

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  Article Topics

News · Big-Box Retailers · CATV · All Topics
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