Digital TV is coming. EVERYBODY PANIC!!

By now you’ve probably seen one of the several PSAs airing on various TV channels about the upcoming switch to all digital TV signals come February 19th, 2009. If you’re one of the 26 million households left in America that don’t get your TV from a cable or satellite provider and you still have an analog TV then this will affect you. The PSAs point out that the government is offering to help by providing coupons to reduce the cost for the digital to analog converter box you’ll need in order to keep your analog TV set working with over-the-air digital signals. You can sign up for these coupons at DTV2009.gov.  What the PSAs don’t say—or rather say in very fine print at the bottom of the screen—is that there’s some strings attached to this offer:

Mouse Print – DTV Coupons: The Consumer Catch-22

*MOUSE PRINT:  Some key facts are buried in the fine print or not well disclosed, including:

  1.   You cannot combine the coupons toward the purchase of a single box (each will cost between $50 and $70 approximately).
  2.   The coupons expire 90 days from their mailing to you, and expired coupons will not be replaced.
  3.   There are only 22.5 million coupons unless Congress authorizes 11.25 million more.
  4. While some boxes have already been approved, more are expected.
  5. Many if not most retailers do not have the boxes in stock yet.

Translation:  The consumer has a dilemna.  The coupons are available now, but the boxes are not.  If you order your coupons now, the 90 day clock will begin to run on them when mailed, but you will likely have fewer choices of boxes and brands.  If you wait for a better choice of boxes, all the coupons might be gone.  And, initially, boxes are not likely to be on sale. Later in the year competition will likely be more stiff, and prices may drop low enough for the coupon to cover nearly the full cost.

Definitely something to be aware of if you were planning on taking advantage of this offer. Of course if you’re getting your TV supplied through a cable company or similar service then this is a non-issue for you as they’ll do the conversion for you.

If you don’t already have Mouse Print in your RSS reader/bookmarks then it’s a great site to keep up with.