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Coupons Slow to Start

February 24, 2008

Notwithstanding the statements last week that converter box coupons would start going out on February 17, or at the beginning of the week, I'm still waiting for mine to be mailed.

Mind you that those statements were made by political appointees, while the web site administered by contractor IBM still says coupons will be mailed starting late-February.

It also says they will be mailed in the order that the applications were received. I applied on January 1, as soon as the site would accept my application. The site ( lets you check on the status of your application; all this week it's told me: "Your application was recently approved and we are currently preparing to mail your coupons."

So I wait.

The boxes are in stores now, although not a lot of choice of models (even though there are now 42 models approved by the NTIA for the coupon program).

Best Buy had a supply of their store-brand Insignia boxes (made by LG) piled up inconspicuously just outside of the TV area. If you knew about the transition and walked in to look at a new TV to replace your old analog set, you would never see the converter boxes unless you knew about them and asked. (They may be waiting until people have their coupons in hand before relocating the boxes to a more prominent location -- let's hope.)

That's the only model box my local Best Buy had in stock. $59.99

Similarly, the WalMart across the way carried a Magnavox TB100MW9 for $49.87. It's the only model they had, although their web site also lists the RCA DTA800 (no mention if it was the "A" or "B" version) but no RCA box in the store. Magnavox also makes an MG9 model that has an analog pass-through feature.

As with Best Buy, WalMart displayed the boxes away from their TVs.

Radio Shack had the Zenith box listed on its web site (the only model) for $60. The Zenith box, identical to the Insignia box, had earlier been priced at $70 by LG. No other models listed on the Radio Shack site.

NTIA has published a list by state of number of coupons ordered. As of February 15, California had the most (442,506), followed by Ohio and Illinois with slightly more than 250,000 each, with Wyoming pulling up the rear with 2637.

The FCC's draft DTV Consumer Education Rules have disappeared from the list of items circulating among the Commissioners. Supposedly that means that a decision has been made on those long-awaited final rules, so I'm expecting something to be formally adopted within the next few days.

Okay, so yes, everyone knows that the format war is officially over, with Blu-ray the winner. By the time summer gets here, all new high-def movies will be Blu-ray and none will be that other format (whatever it was called).

I visited the Magical Blu-ray Tour on Friday, when the Blu-ray promotional display stopped at one of my local area malls. It's apparently aimed at your typical mall shopper; don't go looking to find any arcane technical information. Mostly they were showing clips from Disney animated features.

You can enter to win a Panasonic 50" plasma display and Blu-ray player.

The tour is sponsored by Disney and Panasonic. The remaining schedule is:

Nashville, TNCool Springs GalleriaFebruary 28 - March 1
Hurst, TXNorth East MallMarch 7-9
Denver, COFlat Iron CrossingMarch 14-16
Chicago, ILUNITY 2008 ConventionJuly 23-27

Finally, the broadcast industry continues its work on a mobile/handheld TV standard that can be integrated with its regular digital broadcasts. They want to be ready to roll out such a service to coincide with the end of the DTV transition.

Testing of three competing standards is set to conclude in March, with results available in May. The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) hopes to have a proposed unified standard ready by the end of this year, with a final standard finished sometime during the first half of 2009.

I guess that means a new generation of video iPods.

Until next week. I'll still be waiting for my coupons, and Sony is supposed to have its line show.