Decades of analog TV ended yesterday with no widespread panic but some frustration among TV viewers in the Philadelphia area who will now get over-the-air TV reception through digital technology.

Stores had stocks of digital converter boxes and antennas. A Best Buy clerk in Springfield Township, Delaware County, said sales of antennas took off during the day as some people realized that older antennas had to be upgraded.

Local broadcast stations reported calls from viewers with trouble using their digital converter box or obtaining reception. CBS3 tallied 250 calls between noon and 4:30 p.m.

Experts suggest that everyone with over-the-air TV reception re-scan for channels if they are having reception problems.

David Dombrowski, an electronics engineer with the Federal Communications Commission in Philadelphia, said there were reported reception problems in some parts of Philadelphia with the 6ABC digital signal. Some people in the suburbs may need new antennas, he added.

About 145,000 households get only free over-the-air TV in the Philadelphia region, which includes Wilmington, Allentown, and Atlantic City, according to estimates by the Nielsen Co. That's about 5 percent of the region's TV market.

WHYY, a local public broadcasting station, got about 100 calls by midafternoon, nearly all of them complaints about a lack of over-the-air TV reception, spokesman Brian Rossiter said.

The public station is telling people to move their antennas near windows, if possible, and re-scan for channels, he said.

At the Wal-Mart in Bristol Township, Ken Nowakowski, 50, of Bensalem, had two digital converter boxes in his cart as he shopped in the morning. "We have some older TVs, so this is just a backup," he said.

The U.S. government subsidized the digital switch with $40 coupons for the digital converter boxes.

At the Best Buy in Springfield Township yesterday morning, Alex Bennett, of the home-theater sales department, said sales of digital converter boxes were heavy early in the year and then tailed off. They climbed again in recent weeks as yesterday's deadline approached. He estimated that the store had a couple of hundred converters in stock.

In Camden, CVS cashier Vanessa Still, 49, said there had been no panic to speak of. "We're almost out," she said, as she checked out a long line of customers, none of whom were buying the converter boxes.

At the Rite Aid near the corner of Market and Federal Streets, assistant manager Rich Chester, 62, said there were only two converter boxes remaining of more than 300 the store sold during the week.

"All but one were bought with coupons," he said. "One was returned damaged because the person didn't know how to hook it up."

Contact staff writer Bob Fernandez and 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.
Inquirer staff writers Dwight Ott and Liz Wagner contributed to this article.