The opportunity for cable and DBS to sign up over-the-air customers? Maybe not so much. As the date of the digital transition date nears, a dropping percentage of over-the-air consumers say they expect to sign up for pay TV services.

Among those surveyed, the percentage who said that they would sign up for a paid service had dropped from 29 percent in November 2006 to 12 percent in May 2008. The survey was conducted by the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS).

Consumers are aware of the digital transition and intend to buy converters, but many haven’t yet, perhaps because they’re waiting for the final cutoff date for analog broadcasts next February.

"Many consumers are unaware that there are immediate benefits to making the transition, such as enjoying the digital services Public Television stations are providing now," said Mark Erstling, acting president and CEO of APTS.

As of May 2008, 62 percent of over-the-air households said they would opt to buy a converter box or digital television, compared with 28 percent in November 2006.

But the APTS study found that the majority of the 8.8 million over-the-air households who said they would buy a set-top converter box to continue to receive free over-the-air television have not done so.

Among all television households surveyed, only 9.2 percent – 10.3 million households – said they requested a coupon. Of those that have requested a coupon, 64.4 percent said they received the coupon, and 54.2 percent had redeemed the coupon. Roughly 38 percent of those who redeemed the coupon reported installing the converter box.

The study results are based on a May-June 2008 survey of 1,439 households conducted by research firm Centris in Fort Washington, Pa.

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