Digital TV & You – Myths Busted – Secrets Revealed Part II

Last winter MediaNow sent a well-received update on the Digital TV (DTV) transition that was scheduled for February. As you may know, the transition was delayed and the switch is now going to be this Friday, June 12th. The delay has given us a chance to see how areas that already made the transition are faring and report back to you. For instance, Hawaii made the switch in January. At the end of the day, things were better than expected and most issues were resolved with phone support. The best place to turn for help remains the FCC’s official website, www.DTV.gov. After the change is made on Friday, over the air (antenna) TV viewers with issues will find the FCC very prepared to render help. They even have a program for the elderly or challenged to get a free installation as part of the stimulus, so your grandpa or friend can be taken care of, even if you can’t do it yourself.

Cable, satellite and phone companies claimed that their customers would have nothing to worry about. However, we are finding out that’s not the case. As a matter of fact, MediaNow is predicting that “commercial” users of paid TV services (offices, barracks, hospitals, and schools) are going to be in for more confusion after the DTV switch. Many users are already feeling the effects of rapid changes. Suddenly, stations have disappeared and are placed on channels higher than 188 channel sets. So even if a TBS or History Channel is part of your basic TV plan, there’s a good chance it is going to require you to spend more money to see them. Perhaps the service providers are using this event for marketing purposes. Since QAM channels (digital) may move without notification and some channels have odd numbering schemes, this usually makes watching QAM channels frustrating for the casual viewer, potentially encouraging them to purchase a “digital cable package” which includes a set top box and guide data.

Arstechnica.com noted that as the transition occurs, some people are going to get very angry. The most common reason is that stations are generally switching frequencies as they switch to digital. Major network stations are often located on channels 2-13, but their digital signals can’t actually broadcast on the same channel as the analog signal at the same time (most stations have been running both signals simultaneously). To make this transition period work, the stations often broadcast their digital signals high in the UHF band, while the TVs still show the new signal as belonging to the lower-numbered station. That is, a digital TV might display channel 2 on “channel” 2.1, even though it is actually being broadcast on channel 59. The bottom line is clear: people used to tuning only VHF or UHF signals are now likely to find at least some of their favorite stations in the other band.

MediaNow is in business to provide the best values in HD televisions and monitors to government and commercial users. The best advice we can give is to make sure your future TV purchases are compatible with your service provider. Today’s bargains at big box stores and base exchanges can easily become tomorrow’s nightmares. No matter how much or how little you are willing to spend, choose wisely.

Be sure to look at these features and decide what they mean to your future use of HDTV:

  • HDMI Input – An absolute necessity for tomorrow’s DVD players, video games, PCs and home theaters. HDMI connects video, data and audio over one cable.
  • DVI or VGA Port – This is still the way most PCs will connect to a widescreen.
  • QAM Tuner – This device is present in digital televisions and similar devices and enables direct reception of digital cable channels, without the use of a set-top box.
  • Cable Card – “Digital TV Ready” HDTV’s are available with a cable card slot. This will allow the set to play premium channels (such as HBO) without a set top box and for less.
  • Composite, “S” (analog) with Stereo audio inputs and outputs — Even though the world is going digital, many of us have VCRs and DVD players we still want to use.

Please don’t hesitate to contact MediaNow with any questions. We are a GSA Scheduled SDVO SB, which can help you choose the new Digital TV’s that work for you, regardless of how you get your signal. We have been delivering for the procurement professional for over a decade and we will be here tomorrow to make sure everything works the way it’s intended.