I don't get it

So everybody knew all along that transitioning to all digital TV in 2006 was crazy talk. But now it looks like the broadcasters are buying into 2009, with some caveats and restrictions.

So the sticky widget is this - 15% of American households apparently use antennas to receive programming (as opposed to satellite or cable). In some of these households it would be an issue to buy a $50 box to convert the digital signal to analog so old sets could keep receiving programming. There's an aside about some households having cable or satellite and having a set somewhere in the house that still has a pair of rabbit ears on it.

In the meantime the broadcasters have more spectrum than they should because they have both an analog AND a digital frequency. The disturbing side of this is that emergency services need new spectrum and the likely source is the analog freqs.

So here's the part I don't get. Broadcast TV is advertiser supported (OK - PBS is a slight exception, but moving on.) So the concern here is broadcasting wanting to reach a set where the consumer is either unable or unwilling (and apparently part of the debate in Congress is whether to subsidize both categories or just the unable) to spend $50. Why do the advertisers even care about reaching this consumer? What's the disposable income of this market segment anyway?

I mean OK if you produce a family that is so poor that they can't afford the $50 for their one TV and will lose all access to programming . . . I'll concede that is a very sad case. But don't they have bigger problems than whether or not they can continue to watch American Idol? I mean - even if you're going to give them $50 is it reasonable to spend that money on television?

I just don't see why the advertisers care, and thus why the broadcasters care. Of course, I don't think advertising has ever adapted to HD. Back when I first got HD it was common for the commercial breaks to just show a network logo - they simply could not get enough commercials to fill the time. Even now - Karin and I just finished watching Battlestar Galactica in HD (on the Universal HD channel) and each episode was several minutes short because the commercial breaks were noticeably shorter.

Now by all I understand the HD consumer is self-selected to be a desirable consumer demographic, right? I mean back in 2000 you could say that everyone who could receive HD programming had spent at least $500 on that capability. (That's what I paid for my first HD receiver and it was notable for being the cheapest HD receiver available then.) If you incorporate the TV set costs it's even higher - although that's trickier. I bought my current set for watching DVD's and playing videogames on. The fact that we watch TV on it is fairly incidental to me. But it's always mystified me why people ignore the fact there is particular HD advertising space available.