Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Digital TV converter box? No thanks.

On the way home from work today I was listening to NPR because that's how this homey rolls, and I heard a statement which just startled me: about 3.1 million homes are not prepared for the conversion to digital tv. According to the article, this includes the elderly and poor, those with language issues. Oh, and procrastinators too.

I wasn't startled by the number, which is actually less than I expected. I was perplexed by the newsreader's declaration that only the elderly, the poor, those who don't speak English or even Engrish, and (oh! the horror!) procrastinators would be cast adrift without their converter boxes. A viler cast of ne'er-do-wells surely could not be found! If only they hadn't put the procrastinator in charge, they would have taken over Ikea by now.

But the lovely NPR folks neglected to list one group who is not prepared, a group dear to *my* heart: the purposefully apathetic. Despite the pleas of my mother and father, I can't summon up the will to care if the crap they serve up on TV goes away or not. When the digital tv conversion rolls around, I'll shrug. If I notice.

Don't get me wrong: I love well crafted video entertainment (note to unnamed friend: you still owe me two hours of my life back that were stolen from me watching your wedding video). The Top Gear channel on Youtube is a big draw in my household. National Geographic has 8 Channels online. There's nifty new programming like Dr. Horrible's sing along blog and the Improv Everywhere videos. The Indianapolis 500: Legacy DVDs were in heavy rotation last month. The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library has an absolute guru selecting DVDs for purchase, so they have a great selection. AND WKRP IS ON HULU.

The last time I actually watched a scheduled, non sporting network television broadcast was when the Drew Carey Show was on the air. And if I really got desperate for Drew Carey (seriously: has anyone ever said "desperate for Drew Carey" on the web before?!?) I can pick up episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Youtube (British or American versions, natch).

Just think, 3.1 million households not watching tv. For argument's sake let's say half of them either scramble and get a tv converter box, or find somewhere to mooch on a friend, are declared legally blind or apathetic about tv, or lurk in the neighbor's shrubbery to see in the window... at their tv. So 1.6 million households are now doing something else with their time. How much time? Nielsen says the average American spends 127.25 hours a month watching tv. The US Census says there are an average of 2.5 people per household as of 2008. That's 509,000,000 hours! To put it another way, that's the equivalent to half of the state of Wyoming working full time for a year. If everyone who didn't get a converter box just held their breath for a minute we could solve the global warming problem. Really! Probably. Ok, not.

Just don't expect me to hold my breath until I get a digital tv converter box. I'll be happily streaming content on my computer/iphone/wii, and looking for invites to come over and see the Colts game.


Tristan said...

Top Gear's awesome. And I LOVE the fact that YouTube now has a full-screen, Wii-friendly interface!!!

I haven't had cable since college, when I wasted so many hours of what shoulda been study time sitting in front of the TV.

We ARE ready for the digital transition, though, having bought a digital antenna last year. Unfortunately, the signals are unreliable, and to switch networks, I have to get up and move the antenna. Ah, the good ol' days of TV viewing are back, for me at least :P

Icy Sedgwick said...

The UK has been prepped for the digital conversion for some time now. They're turning the analog areas off one by one, but since most new TVs come ready equipped for the switch, I don't think many people have given it much thought.

I, for one, bought a digital box that would enable me to get a whole host of channels extra for free, somehow believing that this would enrich my life somehow. And I don't watch any of them.

TV...who needs it?

Carl V. Anderson said...

I actually just picked up a converter box today because we decided to ditch satellite for the time being in our ongoing effort to tighten up the budget and pay off all of our debt. We have two weeks left of Dish Network and then it is back to 'free' tv. I don't really care because the only shows I watch faithfully are House and Fringe and I can watch both of them on the converter box. We spend most of our tv watching time viewing movies from the library or from Netflix or watching stuff online. Will be interesting to see what happens once we actually hook this puppy up.