RCA slashes price on DTV converter box

June 25th, 2007

Nipper, the RCA mascot. Thomson/RCA.DTV converter box prices are already plunging—and the product hasn’t even reached stores yet. Thomson dangled a hefty $200 introductory price for its RCA digital TV adapter in March. But that was before rival manufacturer LG announced that its converter box is expected to cost about $60. Today a Thomson spokesman confirmed to me what everyone, I imagine, has expected: RCA will drop its price to be in line with LG’s.

“I’m sure the price will be comparable to LG, depending on quantities ordered by retailers,” Dave Arland of Thomson said in an email exchange.

DTV converter boxes will enable viewers to continue watching over-the-air broadcasts on standard analog TV sets. After analog television broadcasts end on February 17, 2009, antenna-equipped viewers will need either a digital converter box or a TV set with a built-in digital tuner.

The RCA digital-to-analog converter box, model DTA800, was scheduled to arrive in stores this year. Just last week, a Thomson source told me it would be introduced in September. But since then Thomson representatives have maintained we won’t see the DTA800 in stores until January 2008, when the federal DTV coupon program begins. Today, Arland was emphatic: “Retailers are not interested in carrying ANY ‘Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes’ (to use the federal government’s term) until the coupon program is up and running.”

The LG converter box is also due in early 2008.

An avalanche of new-product releases typically clogs the consumer electronics industry’s fall calendar each year. As the holidays approach, store aisles are crowded with new merchandise (and—if retailers are lucky—customers). Rolling out the DTV converters at the beginning of the new year may prove to be a challenge. But January 1 is the date Congress selected for the launch of the subsidy program, and we’ll all have to live with it.

If you just can’t wait until January, read this:
• Available now: DTV converter box alternatives

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