Digital Switchover – USA

Reading Robert X Cringely’s 2008 predictions, there’s one that I’m 100% certain of:
2) This one is really for 2009 but I know we’ll see the effects in 2008. The DTV conversion, where U.S. analog broadcast television stations are turned off in February 2009 and we all have to switch to digital TVs or to cable or satellite or buy those DTV converter boxes, well this whole conversion thing is going to be an absolute disaster. I don’t expect technical problems at all, but the public won’t understand it, the government will blow it, and at the last moment some politicians will even try to cancel it. But it’s still only TV, right?
As I’ve said before, I know the US is a different market to the UK, and many more people get cable services – all of which will be unaffected by this move.
But there are still the poor and the elderly.
Are TVs in the States sold with the equivalent of the UK’s “Digital Tick”? And do consumers understand what it means?
The US has just started their voucher system which will allow consumers two vouchers per household each entitling them to $40 off the price of set-top digital converter box. But one year out, will everyone know about it in time?
Let me suggest that there are going to be a great deal of people left without television in February 2009. That’s something that isn’t going to help the TV advertising market (particularly if there isn’t any programming to show following this sustained writers’ strike).
I still think that the UK has hurdles to jump in its conversion to digital – even the relatively straightforward conversion of a single town, Whitehaven, slipped to “red alert” a couple of months before switchover last year. But at least a measured approach to switchover is being progressed based on a region by region basis allowing learnings to be made as they go, and leaving the potentially tricky highly populated areas until the end.
In the US, they simply switch off analogue on a single day across the whole country.
That way madness lies.