Much of the history of broadcaster and consumer adoption of the ATSC Digital Television standard and the cessation of analog NTSC color television service is documented in the FCC DTV Headlines Archive. The Consumer Electronics Association (now the Consumer Technology Association) reported industry-level DTV sales and forecasts.
Overview - By The Numbers
Figures 1 and 3, (Sept 2007, CEA) show the unit shipments and price reductions in HDTV receivers. Figure 4 (Feb 2004, CEA) shows the early adoption rate of digital television exceeding that of color TV, VCRs and PCs
Dec 24, 1996 – FCC approves the ATSC Digital Television standard, excluding its video format Table 3 from the rules. FCC news release and statement of FCC Comm. Ness
April 22, 1997 – FCC issues Fifth Report & Order, DTV Rules. FCC news release
1997 - first full power broadcasters go on air with permanent DTV broadcast licenses
1998 – first consumer receivers go on sale
May 1, 1999 - The FCC establishes on-air deadlines for broadcasters. FCC Chairman Kennard states "FCC rules become effective calling for the ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates in each of the top ten television markets to begin programming on their digital television channels. I am pleased that the DTV transition is largely on schedule and that broadcasters are joining the digital revolution."
Controversy Swirls Yet Again
June 1999 - Sinclair Broadcast conducted demonstrations that compared reception of COFDM and 8-VSB signals and lobbied industry and FCC to retract their approval of the ATSC standard.
Sept 30, 1999 - FCC issues DTV Report on COFDM and 8-VSB Performance and reaffirms performance of Grand Alliance and ATSC 8-VSB transmission approach. "OET concludes that the relative benefits of changing the DTV transmission to COFDM are unclear and would not outweigh the costs of making such a revision. OET therefore recommends that the ATSC 8-VSB standard be retained."
Oct - Dec 1999 - Once again, controversy swirls, but facts about the tradeoffs and complexities of digital transmission begin to emerge
April 2000 - "CEA projects total sales of DTV products to reach 600,000 by year's end. "Product sales demonstrate consumer enthusiasm for DTV's high-quality picture and sound. Consumers are opting to purchase high-resolution monitors even when programming is not widely available - to use with DVD players and pre-recorded, digital content," said Todd Thibodeaux, CEA VP of Market Research. "We can expect receivers to remain a small percentage of overall DTV sales until consumers have access to regular, high-quality DTV programming." Reference link
Jan 2001 - "According to new estimates released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), unit sales to dealers of digital television (DTV) displays and integrated sets achieved 625,000 in 2000, accounting for $1.4 billion in sales. CEA projects unit sales of DTV sets and displays will show 80 percent growth in 2001, reaching 1.125 million. 2001 dollar sales are expected to reach $2.1 billion." Reference link
2001 DTV Guide - Consumer Electronics Association / TWICE (This Week in Consumer Electronics)
Feb 2002 - According to the CEA, "in dollar terms, digital television is the most successful product in consumer electronics history. By the end of 2002, cumulative sales of digital television products are expected to exceed $8 billion." Reference link
July 11, 2002 - Statement by FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell: DTV Plan Update -- Progress For Consumers
Aug 8, 2002 - FCC introduces phase-in plan for DTV tuners
April 16, 2003 - FCC Summary of DTV Applications Filed and DTV Build Out Status reports that "950 stations are on the air" and that "1,586 TV Stations (94%) have been granted a DTV construction permit or license." FCC chart reference of DTV Stations On The Air
Oct 23, 2003 - FCC reports that "more than 80% of commercial DTV stations are on the air."
Jan 2004 - CEA reports that "Manufacturers shipped nearly four million DTV products in 2003, with revenue from those products adding up to $6.3 billion -- representing a 56 percent increase in unit sales from 2002. Plasma monitors was just one of several sizzling product lines, with 2003 revenue nearly triple its 2002 numbers." Reference link
Sept 7, 2004 - FCC Second Periodic Review sets channel election and replication and maximization deadlines for broadcasters. FCC Chairman Powell states "the national dialogue has shifted from wondering if the DTV transition would ever end to exploring when it should end."
Sept 2004 - "Manufacturer-to-dealer sales of digital television (DTV) products continued to soar during the first half of 2004, reaching 2.8 million units and dollar revenues of more than $2.7 billion, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The CEA said one out of four televisions purchased this year would be an HDTV. DTV sales have now reached a total of 11.7 million units since the technology was introduced in 1998, with most sales occurring during the past two years. The CEA also reported that DTV sales during the first half of 2004 are up 80 percent compared to 1.5 million units sold in the same time period last year." Reference link
Dec 2004 - "Factory-to-dealer sales of digital television products in 2004 continued their impressive growth, posting a 136 percent increase in unit sales in October as compared to the same month in 2003, according to newly released data from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). In October 2004, unit sales of DTV products totaled 968,394 and dollar sales topped $1.29 billion — a 102 percent increase in dollar sales from October 2003. Year-to-date, DTV sales total 5.4 million units and are on track to achieve the association’s 2004 forecast of 6.9 million units." Reference link
Preparing for the end of analog broadcasting
2005 - The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires all full-power television stations in the United States to cease analog broadcasting by February 17, 2009
Jan 2006 - "CEA projects that sales of digital television (DTV) will continue to drive industry sales to new heights in 2006, forecasting total sales to surpass $23 billion and 18 million units. DTV sales in 2005 grew 60 percent to $17 billion. This growth is attributable to the growing popularity and competitive price declines of flat panel displays such as LCD and plasma. Combined, these displays accounted for 40 percent of all DTV sales. Analog and digital LCD TVs combined for $3 billion and four million units. Plasma TVs sold nearly two million units for a total of $4 billion in dollar sales. High-definition television (HDTV) continues to claim 85 percent of the total DTV market." Reference link
May 2006 - "More than 35 million DTV units now have now been sold since market introduction in 1998,” said Shapiro ...“These figures demonstrate that consumers continue to embrace this exciting new technology as we move apace to the end of analog broadcasting.” Reference link
Jan 2007 - "Big-screen televisions will continue be the star in the market, CEA said, as consumers take advantage of falling prices to upgrade to plasma and LCD TVs. CEA said display technologies will account for $26 billion in revenues for 2007, when some 19 million of those two types of flat panel TVs will ship." Reference Link
Sept 2007 - "Digital televisions overtook analog TVs in unit sales last year - a sure sign that DTV has gone mainstream." An Update on Digital Television from the CEA, Brian Markwalter, SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal , Sept 2007
Nov 19, 2007 - GAO report "DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSITION: Increased Federal Planning and Risk Management Could Further Facilitate the DTV Transition"
Dec 22, 2007 - FCC's Third Periodic Review establishes the final transition rules and construction deadlines for DTV stations and sets Feb 17, 2009 as the target date for completing the transition to digital television and shutting down analog transmissions.
Dec 28, 2007 - CEA reports that "More Than Half of U.S. Households Own a Digital Television."
2008 - CEA states "Already, digital televisions are present in more than 50 percent of U.S. households. 2008 will continue to feature robust growth in this category." Reference Link
April 2008 - A Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of the Digital Television Transition finds that "the majority of broadcasters are ready for the DTV transition, but some technical and coordination issues remain". They report that "approximately 91 percent of the 1,122 full-power stations responding to our survey are currently transmitting a digital signal, with approximately 68 percent of survey respondents transmitting their digital signal at full strength and 68 percent transmitting their digital signal on the channel from which they will broadcast after the transition date."
Sept 9, 2008 - Analog television broadcasting ceases in Wilmington, NC serving as a trial market for a nationwide shutdown. FCC Chairman Martin states "Wilmington will lead the country in the transition from analog to digital television. This switch is the biggest change in television since it went from black-and-white to color in the 1950s. And the switch to digital TV is going to be even more exciting. Viewers here in Wilmington are going to be the first ones in the country to take full advantage of the benefits of digital TV – Clearer richer pictures, High Definition DVD-like quality, better sound and more free channels."
Dec 10, 2008 - The shutdown of analog broadcasting originally scheduled for February 17, 2009 is delayed by Congress, "providing for a short-term extension of the analog television broadcasting authority so that essential public safety announcements and digital television transition information may be provided for a short time during the digital transition."
June 12, 2009 – The last full-power NTSC television broadcast is shut down. All full-power broadcasts now use the ATSC digital standard. FCC
FCC Chairman Copps states "Today’s historic transition to digital TV is an important step forward in U.S. broadcasting, offering consumers access to more free over-the-air programming as well as higher quality pictures and sound. The transition also frees up valuable airwaves for emergency communications and advanced wireless services."
Glenn Reitmeier, ATSC Board of Directors Chairman, noted “As we end the era of analog television broadcasting, we celebrate its success and look forward to broadcasting’s exciting digital future. The NTSC analog television system was a technological marvel for its time that has served us well – we salute its innovators and pioneers for their spectacular achievements.”