What does the Digital TV Transition mean for media relations professionals?

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Exploring the implications of the DTV Transition

We’ve all seen the commercials: On February 17th, all full-power TV stations in the U.S. must begin broadcasting exclusively in a digital format. Other than making sure our old analog TVs are digital-ready, what does this mean for communications professionals?

First, a primer on the basics of digital television:

  • Analog vs. Digital: Analog signals are the original standard for transmitting television, take up a lot of room within their assigned channels and are subject to interference, decreasing audio and picture quality. Digital transmits by computer code, which uses less bandwidth space and allows for higher-quality picture and audio.
  • Multicasting: Because digital transmission will give broadcasters more room in their channel space, they will have the ability to broadcast in high-definition or multicast multiple stations within one channel. Some broadcasters are planning to multicast four or more programming choices during the day and then switch to high-definition for prime-time programming.

So what does this mean for communications professionals, advertisers and marketers? Cision Blog asked the National Association of Broadcasters. Our interview is below:

Q: Do you think that many stations will have multicast offerings after the DTV transition?

A: Many stations are currently multicasting, meaning they offer more than one channel of programming. While local broadcasters are focused now on getting consumers ready for next February’s transition to DTV, we expect more stations will take a serious look at additional types of programming they can provide to their viewers once the transition is completed.

Q: Do you know what types of stations these will be (unique local content, syndicated programming, paid programming, etc.)?

A: An example of the first major use of multicasting is Weather Plus, which was created by Hearst Argyle. In addition to weather, some stations are offering channels with traffic information, foreign language and affiliate station programming. For example, in Washington, D.C., the local PBS station, WETA, provides an HD channel, a kids channel and a lifestyle channel.

Stations know their audiences well, and multicasting gives them the opportunity to offer niche-oriented programming.

Q: How do you think the DTV transition will affect media relations professionals, advertisers and marketers?

A: The transition to digital is the biggest change in the industry since television’s transition from black and white to color, and it has major implications for consumers, advertisers and media. Nearly 20 million households are affected by the DTV transition. Unless they upgrade, they could lose reception entirely, which would have serious consequences for advertisers and media. NAB has formed a coalition with leading advertisers to keep the advertising community informed of the implications of the transition and to ensure advertisers, as well as viewers, enjoy a smooth transition to DTV.

The DTV transition represents a major growth opportunity for advertisers. With multicasting, advertisers have the opportunity to reach a broad and new audience of viewers on channels that didn’t exist before.

Q: Will the home viewer notice a difference in picture quality or station innovation following the transition?

A: Actually over-the-air viewers don’t need to wait until February to enjoy the benefits of DTV. If they upgrade to digital now, they can have better pictures and sound, and more programming choices today, because 93% of stations are already broadcasting in digital format.

Q: I would like to provide a link for those who are looking for more information. Which do you recommend?

A: Here are helpful online resources on the transition:

DTV Answers – NAB’s consumer-friendly Web site on all things DTV

Antenna Web – A resource to help viewers figure out what type of antenna they need by plugging in their address

DTV2009.gov – Apply for converter box coupons on this government-run site

myGreenElectronics – For unwanted electronics, find recycling and donating facilities near you using this searchable database.

FCC Consumer Facts on DTV – An FCC guide on hooking up a converter box to your VCR, DVR or DVD recorder for recording purposes.

So get ready for the digital TV transition. Like social media, this transition will open up more opportunities than communicators have seen ever before.

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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