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Please clarify the digital TV (DTV) transition in 2009

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / May 2, 2008 4:18 AM PDT
Question:

I'd like the straight scoop on what happens to TV reception next year. Specifically, will my several analog TVs that are connected directly to cable still function? Or will I need a converter box on each of them? TV store salesmen say I will need a box on each. But I understood that the cable companies would continue to send both analog and digital signals over the cable. Only the 'over-the-airwaves broadcasting' would be free of analog signals so those receiving TV via antenna will need a box on each analog TV. Is that correct? Simple question, but I had to get the simple answer. Either I'm OK as is, or I need a bunch of boxes. If you can give me clear and definitive answer, that would be much appreciated! Thank you very much.

Submitted by: Chuck B.

Answers:

For starters please check out some of these helpful answers from our members here:

http://forums.cnet.com/5208-10149_102-0.html?forumID=7&threadID=293451&messageID=2769607#2769607

Many great addition advice following this post so please read on!


If you have any additional advice for Chuck B. click the "reply" link below to submit your answer. Please be as detailed as possible when submitting your answer. Thank you!
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Cable TV
by droschke7 / May 2, 2008 11:24 AM PDT

if you have cable TV then you don't have a problem, the box lets you watch the TV whether it is Analogue or Digital

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"Box" semantics
by kcrlshell / May 16, 2008 11:08 PM PDT
In reply to: Cable TV

The question is about cable ready TV's and cable boxes. I think he understands that OTA reception will require the OTA boxes. He has cable ready tv's...he gets cable WITHOUT renting cable boxes right now. So do I. And the question for us is: Is the cable company going to stop pre-converting cable signal to analog (put it all in the digital tier) and FORCE us all to rent digital cable boxes for every currently "cable ready" TV in our house?

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re: cable TV
by gmclam / May 18, 2008 5:37 PM PDT
In reply to: "Box" semantics

> The question is about cable ready TV's and cable boxes. I think he understands that OTA reception will require the OTA boxes. He has cable ready tv's...he gets cable WITHOUT renting cable boxes right now. So do I. And the question for us is: Is the cable company going to stop pre-converting cable signal to analog (put it all in the digital tier) and FORCE us all to rent digital cable boxes for every currently "cable ready" TV in our house?

This is actually a complex question because of the number of different cable systems around the country (even if many have the same brand). There are a lot of factors at work here. First you should understand why there is such a thing as "digital cable" in the first place. It has NOTHING to do with quality - it has everything to do with selling you as many channels as possible.

NTSC analog signals are "klunky" by today's standards and take up 6 MHz of bandwidth each. Cable companies learned years ago that they can squueze several channels into that same space. Eventually I see no compelling reason for cable companies to continue transmitting analog signals. Just like they do now, this will not alienate paying customers with NTSC only TVs - all they need to do is provide converters to those customers.

Although the cable giants have fought the issue, we do have CableCARDs right now which are supposed to provide people with cable ready TVs the ability to receive authorized cable channels. What we should have soon is a software version of the same thing. And the software version will work with pay-per-view, TV guide & 2 way stuff; something CableCARDs do not.

So in the long run expect cable to change totally. About the only thing you'll be able to do with NTSC is connect it to an old VCR or other such device.

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freeview ariel ?
by billynry / April 17, 2009 8:52 PM PDT
In reply to: Cable TV

I have Virgin cable for TV,broadband and telephone all are faultless. I also have my original freeview setup tv, of which was ok when I decide to check it out,- but in the last six months I have noticed picture breakup , something which is new and not had in the past few years with my freeview setup, I wonder why should this happen now, is the signals changing or what, I still used my old analouge ariel which was ok for a long while untill recently, do I now require a new digital ariel all of a sudden, if so why ?? I wonder if this is the case, any thought anyone ??
Billy

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Is this CABLE or OVER-THE-AIR?
by gmclam / April 20, 2009 3:32 AM PDT
In reply to: freeview ariel ?

> I have Virgin cable for TV,broadband and telephone all are faultless.

The digital transition in this forum has nothing to do with CABLE.

> I also have my original freeview setup tv, of which was ok when I decide to check it out,- but in the last six months I have noticed picture breakup , something which is new and not had in the past few years with my freeview setup, I wonder why should this happen now, is the signals changing or what, I still used my old analouge ariel which was ok for a long while untill recently, do I now require a new digital ariel all of a sudden, if so why ?? I wonder if this is the case, any thought anyone ??

What is "freeview"? The digital transition in this forum only relates to TV broadcasting in the USA over-the-air.

But, here some points. Original analog (NTSC) broadcasters were 'loaned' a 2nd channel to simultaneously broadcast digital (ATSC) signals in the USA. This means TWO physically DIFFERENT channels are being used by those broadcasters. One of the two signals may be VHF while the other is UHF (or visa-versa); which require different antennas.

Without knowing the exact TV stations you are receiving, there is no way to clearly answer your question. There are just too many variables. Some analog broadcasts have already been shut down. All full power analog broadcasts will now end by 6/12/2009. There are broadcasters who were anticipating the original 2/17/09 date who switched to a lower power transmitter or aux antenna/etc so they could get their digital signal up to full power. In other words, there are lots of signals out there (analog & digital) which are not at full power, not broadcasting from their original/high antenna location, or from a secondary location.

Additionally, the physical channel which will be used by any given station may be different than was used during the transition, or might even be the station's original analog channel, once they terminate analog broadcasting. When these specific changes take place, you might need a different antenna, or might need to point your antenna to a (slightly) different direction.

In my area; analog channel 6 has been broadcasting digitally on channel 53. Once they turn off their analog signal, they plan to broadcast digitally on channel 9. Another broadcaster in my area was on channel 42 analog, but is moving their transmitter location and changing to channel 26. These scenarios are playing out all over the USA.

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USA Freeview only,sorry I interupted !
by billynry / April 26, 2009 6:57 PM PDT

I did not reilize this was an US of A discussion only. I will check out UK only discussions.
Thanks to all who wrote?

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New TV
by bhorn1 / May 2, 2008 11:39 AM PDT

The best answer is to go to Sam's and purchase a new flat screen LCD that is HD and Digital ready and not buy a box which is a band aid fix to an obsolete TV. Your picture and sound will be many times better and you will enjoy watching Tv a lot more. A 32 inch can be had for less than $800 and a 26inch less than $500. Its time to move up into the digital world.

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A number of responses out of touch...
by baseman / May 11, 2008 11:37 PM PDT
In reply to: New TV

What? You post, "The best answer is to go to Sam's and purchase a new flat screen LCD that is HD and Digital ready...". This reply is fairly condescending and oblivious to the fact a large number of Americans simply cannot afford $500-800 for a new TV as you suggest. Maybe you and I can, but there a quite a few people that have a hard time living week to week...especially with the cost of food and gas going up every week. Your simple response is breathtakingly ignorant of life in much of the country for a great number of Americans where $100 may be a make-it-or-break-it scenario each month. To paraphrase your post, maybe you should move into the real world.

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The digital TV (DTV) transition
by RuskinRules / May 12, 2008 2:51 AM PDT

I thought your reply was harsher than bhorn1's and I didn't get the impression he was being callous, only helpful. He was simply stating that for the questioner, he/she is better off investing in the future long-run rather than piecemeal fixes because, and as we all know, one day any bandaid will be obsolete resulting in even more wasted money.

In my own experience, and despite me having a background in computers and digital media, I myself was confused about whether or not to purchase an HV-compatible television but because I don't watch a lot of TV (only view DVDs), I was debating on whether to simply buy a convertor box, or take the plunge.

Consequently, I sprung some cash over the weekend to purchase a brand new REGZA 42".

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re: The digital TV (DTV) transition
by gmclam / May 12, 2008 3:10 AM PDT

> ... He was simply stating that for the questioner, he/she is better off investing in the future long-run rather than piecemeal fixes because, and as we all know, one day any bandaid will be obsolete resulting in even more wasted money.

NO, we all don't "know" that! There is nothing about DTV converters that are going to make them any more obsolete than that new REGZA 42" you just purchased. The whole concept about converters is to be able to keep our standard definition TVs operational until they reach the end of their natural lives.

> In my own experience, and despite me having a background in computers and digital media, I myself was confused about whether or not to purchase an HV-compatible television but because I don't watch a lot of TV (only view DVDs), I was debating on whether to simply buy a convertor box, or take the plunge.

My background is in product development, computers and television broadcasting (over 30 years) - does that make me "more qualified" to provide an accurate answer? I don't watch much TV either, but that is not the point here. The point others are making is that A LOT OF PEOPLE can not afford costly purchases. Converters, and the $40 coupon are the least expensive solution enabling 10000s of consumers to continue receiving television past 2/17/2009. The purpose of the discussion here is to help those who need it, not brag about what you just purchased.

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Chill out dude
by RuskinRules / May 12, 2008 4:08 AM PDT

Wow. You have some real issues going on there.

I wasn't "bragging'' about my new purchase, I was simply stating that even with my supposed knowledge and experience with digital technology, that even I'm confused about HDTV and I was only confirming other people's trepidation in purchasing. I never said that because of my background, that I consider myself "more qualified."

If you reread the initial question, no where does he state that he is concerned about being able to afford the new technology or let on that he/she is destitute.

I'll say it AGAIN, your responses and rhetoric were far more harsh and actually, pretty arrogant (as quoted below)...

"Your simple response is breathtakingly ignorant of life..."
"...maybe you should move into the real world..."
"This reply is fairly condescending and oblivious..."

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You are combining two different responses...
by baseman / May 12, 2008 4:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Chill out dude

RuskinRules...You are combining two different responses into your thread above. I initially pointed out that it isn't easy for everyone to simply drop $500-100 for a new TV. Was I harsh in my comments? Possibly. Sorry if I was. But I have seen way too many people make it sound like you are an idiot if you don't switch to HDTV. Again, not everyone has the bucks. bhorn1 maybe should have said something along the lines of "if your wallet permits, the best way to go is...". The way it was worded made it sound like a no-brainer.

However, in your last response you said "...in your response(s)...". I only made one. gmglam responded to your last comment. The bragging comment was from gmglam and not me.

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You are combining two different responses...
by RuskinRules / May 12, 2008 4:52 AM PDT

You're right. My apologies.

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common misconception...
by Annie_in_SC / May 17, 2008 12:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Chill out dude

DTV (Digital TV) and HDTV are not the same thing! there are eighteen DTV Formats. You do not need High Def to receive a digital signal just a digital TV or a digital set top box. Cable and Satellite Is Good Until 2012

Subscribers to cable and satellite TV services are not affected by the switch until 2012. These are closed systems that are already sending analog signals to your TV. Due to orders from the FCC, satellite and cable services will provide analog TV until 2012 and will continue to convert programming that originates in digital back to analog for its customers until then.

The following is just for informational purposes:
DTV offers 18 digital formats starting with Standard Definition (SD), the digital counterpart of the NTSC analog standard, except without snow and ghosts.

Enhanced Definition (ED) offers the most formats.

High Definition (HD) provides 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound and requires a wide screen TV set (16:9) in order to eliminate the letterbox effect.

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Converter Boxes
by rosiemyrosie / May 27, 2008 12:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Chill out dude

A simple question about the issue of converter boxes has turned into the same discussion we hate so much among politicians and the news media. The exchanges have digressed from the issue to personal confrontation, innuendo, who said what, what was meant to be said, yes you did, no I didn't........., it is sad and pitiful, but a reflection of the nature of our population. So, what is the point here..........., stick to the subject and stop trying to direct others as to how they should think, say and act.

I started reading this forum with interest, but forget it. Who needs all this nonsense.

" Live and let live!"

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answers to ? about cable boxes in feb., 2009
by atvguy / May 16, 2008 3:05 PM PDT

Amen to the reply by gmclam ; the desired response is to help the confused questioner(s) not to brag about responders new & expensive reeza purchase I'm tech challenged & appreciate short, concise response
God Bless
chip

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You just don't get it.
by c.b.mullen / May 17, 2008 2:00 AM PDT

I think your reply is about as considerate as that of bhorn1. You guys seem to be oblivious to the fact that millions of Americans are suffering and through no choice of their own are living in a state of poverty.
Instead of talking up the benefits of digital TV you should be thinking of how you can help the disadvantaged and less fortunate among us. It is your duty as a human being to do so.
I can't help these people financially but I have spent every year of my life volunteering my help, doing anything I can to make their lives better and trying in some small way to help alleviate their suffering. I have always insisted on anonymity and I certainly don't want any recognition or credit for helping them.
To defend his answer is just as disgusting as his answer.

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Changeover! Converter boxes
by Grandmomof7 / December 21, 2008 9:15 PM PST
In reply to: You just don't get it.

What a mess!
I ordered my coupons and so did my daughter. The local stores didn't have any of the converter boxes in stock.
Dish Network asked us to send the coupons to them, what a nightmare that was!

My daughter's coupons expired and still no converter boxes to be found. There should not have been an expiration, that's totally wrong! Now she has no money to buy a converter box without a coupon.

Dish Network finally in Sept. decided they would just update our system and give us local channels for 6 months. We've had a mess with our bill ever since, not getting Dish on one of our tv's now and on top of that one of our network channels and been turned off!

This whole digital switch is a disaster as far as I'm concerned! The government should have just sent out converter boxes to each household, they waste money all of the time anyway!

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Changeover! Convertor Boxes
by HalfLife360 / January 20, 2009 4:56 AM PST

Hi Grams
<<My daughter's coupons expired and still no converter boxes to be found. There should not have been an expiration, that's totally wrong! Now she has no money to buy a converter box without a coupon.
Dish Network finally in Sept. decided they would just update our system and give us local channels for 6 months. We've had a mess with our bill ever since, not getting Dish on one of our tv's now and on top of that one of our network channels and been turned off!
This whole digital switch is a disaster as far as I'm concerned! The government should have just sent out converter boxes to each household, they waste money all of the time anyway!>>

Check http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx first to see if your location even has any signals strong enough to bother getting a converter. Your local librarian can help if you are not familiar with it.

Have your daughter or a friend apply for a new coupon. Use a friend's address or your name if you never applied for one. Friends and family can be very helpful. :+) BestBuy now offers converter boxes online as of Dec 2008. That's an option if none of your brick and mortar stores in your area have stock. You can read the reviews to decide which best fits your situation. I realize the program is out of money now but you might as well get on the waitlist and/or find a friend/family who hasn't used up their coupons. The prices have dropped another $5 in 2009. There was no problem getting coupons beginning March 2008 last year. Many stores constantly restock as they run out. The 3 month expiration date is listed on the coupon and the online site when users apply. Keep checking your local stores and ask your neighbors/friends which boxes worked for them and where they got theirs. The expiration is so that if somebody doesn't use their coupons, the money can go to somebody else.

A onetime $14-20 for a converter is a lot less than Dish monthly. Since Dish isn't providing you much service, maybe you can save the monthly fee and get a new DVR with a tuner. It will convert and you get a recorder too. You just have to watch TV with it on since the converter is in the device. You still need an antennae no matter if you've got a converter or a dvr with tuner.
If you have strong signals in your area, you'll be pleased with them.
If not, then don't bother with a converter and maybe shop around for a different service.

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Dish TV and Local stations
by KeithHarmon / January 21, 2009 2:06 AM PST

If you have Dish Network, a few things worth noting regarding local channels that I found when I got the service. With the VIP722 HD DVR box (costs an extra 5.99 per month for the DVR):

1. You can hook up your antenna to the box and tune in local channels in HD (the good news). The bad news is that you get no program guide for the antenna stations, which also means you can't select shows from the guide to be recorded on the DVR. You can still manually program for recording the channel, start and stop time with daily/weekly recurrence, but more difficult than jsut select the show from the guide.

2. If you can run a TV cable (coax or A/V patch cables) to another TV in another room, you can watch Sat/OTA/DVR recordings in STANDARD DEF in that room on the second TV. Note this is not the same show as in the main room. There is a radio remote for the 2nd room to control through the wall.

3. you can record in real HD, and record A LOT - easily double the shows than will fit on my Fios DVR.

Total cost for the DVR w/HD channels is $37/mo. *IF* you get local channels from your antenna. If you connect it to your computer network, you can get (pay for) movies downloaded to watch when you want (but I have not actually done this yet, so there are probably some caveats with that)

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thank you for recognizing that people cannot afford new tvs
by mickey712 / May 13, 2008 8:07 AM PDT

New tvs are totally out of the question for me. I've got home heating oil & propane to buy! I refuse to pay for cable tv & am only willing to pay to support pbs & npr. Let the advertisers pay for the airways, not the public.

I received a government coupon for the digital box, had no other store close by to purchase the converter box (which is also supposed to allow analog signals in) other than Walmart (which just in the last month drove the local Radio Shack out of business); brought it home; hooked it up & got nothing but fuzz. My son came over to try again for me, he seemed to have it hooked up & scanning correctly but got no signal - so how is that going to help me & millions of others?

Please let me know.

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Convertter Box

You just described my situation completely. The converter box I bought is not working ... weak signal, I probably need to buy a new antenna or some other crap to make it work.

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converter box
by hikergirl / May 21, 2008 7:16 AM PDT
In reply to: Convertter Box

Sandy: Before you spend any more money, try antennaweb.org. You just input your address and it will tell you all the channels you receive and your distance from the stations. Also, if you will go to (I think) dtv.gov and click on the section for antennas, you will find that you do not need any special type antenna. Sales people will tell you you need digital or amplified or some other type. I doubt you will. Just be sure you aim the dipoles as close to the direction indicated in antennaweb.org as possible, but near a window. I, too, bought a piece of junk (Magnavox) and had to return it. The new box works just fine. Pat

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Speaking of Costs....
by jwdunkel / May 19, 2008 12:59 PM PDT

Has anyone bothered to ask any of the cable companies who are now charging premium fees for HDTV whether they will drop the "premium fees" once HDTV becomes the new standard? Would they then charge a premium fee for those who need analog feed?

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ARE Cable companies charging extra for HD?
by cvmoreau / May 26, 2008 11:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Speaking of Costs....

I have no idea what's going on, elsewhere, but my cable company (Comcast) does not charge extra for HD, per se.

First of all, though, remember that there may never be a time when all channels will be HD. I think some channels will remain in standard definition -- although all channels will be digital.

Originally, I had basic service, only, which meant the analog channels, and no set top box. After purchasing an HD set, I decided that I'd like to get the local broadcast channels in HD, so Comcast gave me a box which gave me just that -- the same analog channels I'd been getting, plus the local HD broadcasts (as well as the PBS standard def sub-channels). Since they had to give me a digital box to do this, they charged me an additional $5 a month for the box. I suppose we could get picky, and say they're charging for the HD channels, but, there really is no way they could deliver those digital HD channels to me without a box, since ATSC is the over-the-air digital format, and cable uses QAM. Therefore, I really do consider the $5 to be the rental cost of the set top box.

Later I decided to add the basic digital package which includes about a dozen, or so, HD channels, such as Discovery, Food, ESPN, TLC, etc., etc. I pay the same thing for that package that someone who has only a standard def TV pays, but I get the HD channels, as well. (Actually, those with older sets get those channels, but they're downconverted to standard def.)

So, ARE they charging extra for HD?

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Cables cost $ for HD
by KeithHarmon / May 27, 2008 6:25 AM PDT

Cox charges me $14.99 for a "Digital Gateway", one for each digital tuner they have enabled in my home. One of them is the $5 cable box, which is fine for a rental fee (14.99+5 = @20). Another is the $2.99 for the cable card, which is also a rental fee. They could certainly enable my HDTV to tune in signals without the cable card, but then they could not charge me the $14.99 + $2.99 ($18) for the HDTV content. Cox called to warn me I should get the set top box because new channels would not be receivable by the cable card (fortunately, this time there were no new channels I found interesting). Both Dish and DirecTV charge more for HD content, regardless of the box you have.
So, Yes, you have to pay more to get "premium" HDTV content from any provider. The only way to not pay more for HDTV is with an antenna and an HDTV tuner (either in a HDTV or an outboard tuner).

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The key word is "premium"
by cvmoreau / May 27, 2008 7:24 AM PDT
In reply to: Cables cost $ for HD

>>So, Yes, you have to pay more to get "premium" HDTV content from any provider. The only way to not pay more for HDTV is with an antenna and an HDTV tuner (either in a HDTV or an outboard tuner).<<

As I said, above, I subscribe to digital basic and I get at least a dozen HD channels, and I don't pay any more than those who have an analog standard def set and are subscribing to digital basic. So, I do not pay extra for HD. However, I've no doubt that if I subscribed to some premium packages I might have to do just that.

Even with just the basic package, I'm getting quite a few more HD channels than I would with an antenna, and at no additional cost.

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Charter Charges
by zysmith / May 28, 2008 12:56 AM PDT

Charter cable absolutely charges extra for all HD content and, like the other providers, compresses the feed and reduces the quality.

For now, true HD is the province of Blue Ray and over the air broadcast.

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Compression
by cvmoreau / May 28, 2008 7:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Charter Charges

Comcast may not charge extra for HD, but I do find that they compress the signal, badly. I've compared over-the-air HD transmissions with the channel on cable, and the OTA programs have considerably better resolution.

Right now, if you want full resolution HD, you'd better hope that FIOS is installed in your neighborhood. It isn't in mine.

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Comcast charges extra for HD
by WazmoNariz / May 29, 2008 10:24 AM PDT
In reply to: Compression

Comcast very definitely charges extra for HD.

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