The Great Canadian Switchover: Are we ready?

Canadians are less TVcentric than Americans, suggest new report, and slower to adopt to new technologies.

The US senate unanimously voted to postpone the transition from analogue TV to digital this week, moving the switch-off date from Feb. 17 to June 12, at press time. While the analogue switch-off deadline in Canada is not for another two years, a new report prepared by Mindshare Canada for MiC warns that Canadian homes that rely on US off-air signal feeds will be impacted by the US switchover immediately. Advertisers will also potentially be impacted: If homes aren’t able to receive station signals, ratings will suffer, states the report.

Mindshare’s proprietary study MORe, which surveyed 1,200 people in the US and 560 aged 18+ in Canada last year to understand where each country was headed in the transition from analogue television to digital, points to the importance of better explaining the implications and benefits – improved picture, sound quality, the potential of additional channels – of the switchover, currently set for August 2011 in Canada.

The study, The Analogue Switch Off: The Canadian Consumer Journey, found scope to learn from US communications tactics, where almost half – 46% – of those surveyed found that the government had done ‘very well’ in communicating the switchover, while 19% of those surveyed in Canada felt they didn’t have enough information to make an opinion or to even get ready.

In comparing the transition awareness level between the two countries, the study found that only 65% of Canadians were aware, compared to 95% in the US. Asked to describe how they felt about the digital transition, 19% of Canadians surveyed said that they either did not have enough information to make a decision or had no idea how to get ready. ‘The answers may reflect that Canadians tend to be less TVphilic – watching less TV, having fewer sets in the home and being slower to adopt new technologies,’ suggest the report, pointing to added incentives in the US like $40 coupons to fund $60 converters, and no such scheme in Canada as of yet.

The study also found that 31% of Canadians surveyed felt annoyed at having to spend money to transition and that only 26% are looking forward to an improved signal, compared to 37% in the US.

In the consumer journey to digital, more Canadians than Americans claim to have been prepping by buying converters (13% compared to 10%) and changing their TV (19% to 16%), with the latter in the planning stages of the upgrade to digital for the first time (15% compared to 10%) – a finding the report attributes to the proximity of the US switchover date.

In searching for information about the digital transition, online was where most were headed (6% in Canada and 12% in the US), followed by talking to friends and providers at 5% and 6% respectively.

Currently 60% of homes in Canada, as in the US, have digital signals.

To view the full Mindshare report, click here.

MORe, Mindshare’s proprietary online study, is used to answer questions not addressed by industry sources in order to inform its clients’ communications efforts.