Decades of analog TV ended today 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 rescan for channels if they are having reception problems.
David Dombrowski, electronics engineer with 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 five percent of the region's TV market.
WHYY, the local public broadcast station, got about 100 calls by mid-afternoon, 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 rescan for channels, he said.
In the Wal-Mart in Bristol Township, Bucks County, 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 back-up," said Nowakowski.
The U.S. government subsidized the digital switch with $40 coupons for the digital-converter boxes.
Nowakowski said he typically watches DirecTV. But he and his wife have an older TV set in their bedroom to catch information on school closings and local news in the morning.
At the Best Buy in Springfield Township, Mike Fadgen of Ridley Park was standing alone in front of a shelf of converter boxes and amplifier antennas. It was about 10 this morning.
Fadgen's coupons for the converters arrived in the mail two weeks ago, but he did not get out until today to buy one.
Alex Bennett, of the home theater sales department, said sales of digital-converter boxes had been heavy early in the year and then tailed off. They had climbed again in recent weeks as today's deadline approached. He estimated that the store had a couple 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 digital-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 over 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."