Wilmington broadcasters flip all-digital switch

Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:35am
Brian Santo

Wilmington, N.C., switched over to full-time, digital-only broadcasting yesterday, the first market to do so. Broadcasters flipped a ceremonial, 8-foot switch at midday.

There had been some concern about what would happen if broadcasters across the country waited until the final deadline of Feb. 17 before going all digital, and there were unanticipated glitches.

Broadcasters in Wilmington volunteered to be the test case for the digital transition, months in advance of the final deadline. That included the affiliates of the four major networks and a station associated with Trinity Broadcasting. The local public television station continues to simulcast in analog and digital.

Viewers who do not have a digital TV, or did not buy a converter box, will see a screen advising them of the transition and recommending the purchase of a converter or a switch to a pay-TV service.

Wilmington is the 135th-largest television market in the U.S. with about 180,000 TV households, according to Nielsen. Pay TV providers together have penetration greater than 90 percent, according to reports. Given reports that sales of converters have been steady, the number of people who may potentially be left without service is far fewer than 18,000.

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