Will digital TV switch kill channels?

Analog TV (DailyInvention via Flickr)Just this week we were talking about how the test switch to Digital TV in Wilmington, N.C. seemed to go off without a hitch. On September 8th, Wilmington became the first market in the U.S. to leave analog signals behind. The rest of the country will follow suit on February 17, 2009.

Things seemed to go well, that is till the FCC acknowledged an unexpected problem. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“The analog signal for Wilmington’s NBC affiliate, WECT-TV Channel 6, one of the stations in the experiment, broadcasts several counties away from its actual digital market. When WECT stopped broadcasting in an analog format, as all TV stations must do Feb. 17, several customers outside the official market suddenly lost the channel.”

The larger implication from a few customers losing channels, of course is the risk that television markets across the U.S. will be affected, or in FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s words, about 15% of these markets could shrink “in a significant way.”

What remains to be seen is if the FCC will be able to resolve the problem before the digital switch happens nationwide, and if not, how it will impact advertisers and TV viewers.