Congress, according to the New York Times today, has now mandated that all TV sets must be digital-capable by April 7, 2009 (which, for you sports fans, is one day after that year’s NCAA basketball championship game). What the heck does this mean?
A couple things. First, if you own one of the 20 million TV sets that still uses rabbit ears, you’ll lose out. You’ll get no reception at all. (Hey, at least you caught that last game.) Not to worry, though. Congress has earmarked $2 billion for you and your Luddite friends to buy you a set-top box so you can adapt your old set to receive the digitized signals.
Second, we’ll all be getting a bunch more channels. Think CBS1, CBS 2, CBS3, ABC4, ABC5, ABC6, etc. Kinda like BBC3, or HBO Family. This is because when the signal space now occupied by those networks is converted from analog to digital, they can slice it a lot thinner, thus fitting more channels into it. And you thought there were too many cable channels already.
I think so too. Numerous studies have pointed out this interesting paradox: Although we love the idea of choice, we don’t actually practice it. Even though we get all excited about having 400 channels, we only watch 12 of those on a regular basis, according to research.
Think about it. Count the number of TV stations you flip through when you sit down at night. You’ve probably formed a habit, and that takes you through about… 12 channels, before you give up. A few years ago, Bruce Springsteen sang a lonely song about “57 Channels and nothing on.”
Still, you can’t stop progress — nor should you. CBS should launch at least five more digital channels, if only to create a CSI for every city in America. That way they can sell more ad time, target it more directly, and at least have a fighting chance to keep up with the Googles of the advertising world.
As for me, maybe I’ll even add one of those new digital channels to my favorites list. Or not.