Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Sunday Supplements (Tuner Mandate Edition, Part 1)

OK, so it's March 11th, 10 days since the final phase of the FCC tuner mandate took effect, requiring all new TV sets (not just those larger than 24", as has been the case for the last year) to include a digital tuner (unless they have no tuner at all). So the Sunday-paper circulars should be featuring lots of new product in the smaller size ranges, right? Not so fast.

First, we need to remember that stores are allowed to sell their existing stock (the FCC order only addresses shipping and importation, not retail sales). Then we need to point out that while last year at this time the 25"-and-above sets were gone pretty quickly, it might be a challenge to replace the smallest, lowest-end sets wth digital-capable versions whose prices are acceptable to their intended audience. For that reason, it's possible that stores have stocked up on these last analog-only models, and that they may hang around somewhat longer.

In any case, there's still a fair amount of analog product out there as of this writing. For the figures below, I've gone beyond the contents of my Sunday paper and included the various stores' online presence (as well as Amazon.com). Note - these figures include sets marketed as "HD Ready", capable of displaying HD but only containing a NTSC tuner.

BEST BUY - Last Sunday's circular featured ads for two small analog LCDs. Today's included a note that "15 in. LCD TVs start at $189" and a listing for one 20" HD-Ready set. Bestbuy.com currently has 29 analog models (including a Samsung 23" HD-Ready model for $719!).

CIRCUIT CITY - Last week's circular featured 6 small analogs, that's now down to 5. Circuitcity.com features 31 analog models.

TARGET - Last week's circular featured two small analogs, that's now down to one. Target.com had 60 20" or under sets, of which two have ATSC tuners, and four sets in the 21-24" range, one of which has an ATSC tuner.

AMAZON.COM - I only had time to track the portables here. Last Sunday they had 42 models (none of which had an ATSC tuner), today they have 39 (still no ATSC).

Please note that all the above vendors still carry NTSC DVD recorders, and that today's Best Buy circular still featured a dual-NTSC Series 2.

It'll be interesting to see how many weeks it will take for the analog TV to actually exit the retail picture. I'll keep tracking this!

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