U.S. DTV campaign struggles from lack of funds, dearth of robots

June 6th, 2007

Digit Al mascot. Digital UKThe campaign to inform consumers about the digital TV transition remains under fire, with new signals of minimal buy-in from retailers and congressional tut-tutting about stingy budgets.

Democratic Reps. John Dingell (Mich.) and Edward Markey (Mass.) lament that

the FCC has requested “a mere $1.5 million to inform 300 million American consumers about the digital television transition.” By contrast, they noted, Berlin spent more than $980,000 to educate 3.4 million citizens about its transition.

A proposal to require stores that participate in the federal digital TV adapter coupon program to detail their employee training and consumer education plans is receiving a chilly response from Marc Pearl, the leader of a trade group representing Best Buy, Circuit City, Target and Sears:

He said retailers were waiting for the NTIA to choose a contractor in August before deciding if they would get involved, and to what extent.

But we must cut the megaretailers some slack here. They’re busy. Best Buy is too busy, apparently, to stock converter boxes. Circuit City is busy firing people. Sears is still busy plastering its tired but venerable name on rebranded Kmart stores (because people hate Sears slightly less than Kmart). And Target is perpetually busy, trying to persuade hipsters they need new sorts of candles (they don’t).

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Brits—yes, again with the Brits—have devised what is, from all indications, a jolly fine campaign for their DTV switcheroo. Pensioners, as they call them, and folks with disabilities can even get special installation assistance. What’s more, the British don’t just have a campaign. No, no. It’s much more than that. They have an actual mascot, you see. And it’s not just a mascot, it’s a robot mascot:

A DIGITAL roadshow will be visiting thousands of households in the ITV Border region ahead of the national television switchover.

Starting next week, the three-month tour will see Digit Al, the switchover robot mascot, driving a 10-metre trailer across Cumbria, south-west Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Please allow me to underline this point: Not only are they sending a robot all about the UK to promote digital TV, but they actually TAUGHT IT TO DRIVE!

Now that’s a good $5 million right there, especially at today’s exchange rates.

• Links: Broadcast Engineering, News & Star

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