Demand for digital TV decoders dwarfs supply

Appliance stores across Attica are on red alert following Friday?s switch-off of the analog signal for the country?s main private television channels, as the spike in demand for digital decoders and new TV sets in the days leading up to the move has already resulted in shortages.

Growing numbers of the capital?s electronic goods retailers are reporting decoder shortages, especially as far as the cheaper set-top boxes are concerned, and the situation is expected to worsen on Saturday, when a significant number of viewers are expected to dash to the shops to pick up devices or new TVs so they can watch their favorite channels.

As of Friday morning, viewers in Athens who normally receive the private channels from the capital?s main transmission point, Mt Hymettus, now need a digital decoder for their old TVs or a new set compatible with the MPEG4 decoding system to see their broadcasts. If possible, they also have the alternative of turning their aerials toward Mt Parnitha, which will continue to transmit the analog signal for at least one more year.

While the switch-off date was originally destined to affect only the six private channels that created the Digea digital terrestrial platform (Skai, Mega, Antenna, Alpha, Star and Makedonia TV), the other private channels broadcasting from Hymettus decided to fall in line and have also turned off their analog signal and gone digital — part of a Europe-wide initiative to free up precious broadcasting space as well as improve signal quality. Those channels are Mad, MTV, Nickelodeon, Blue Sky, Tileasty, High TV, Attica, Extra 3, Sport TV, Kontra Channel, Sunny, Channel 9, and Body in Balance, as well as the Greek Parliament?s channel, Vouli.

The three state channels (ET1, NET and ET3) will turn their analog signal off from Hymettus on August 17, to make sure all viewers are able to watch the 2012 Olympic Games, which they will be broadcasting from London between July 27 and August 12. Thessaloniki will have its analog TV signal switched off in September. Cable and satellite viewers are not affected.

The shortages already witnessed on shelves at appliance stores are attributed to the limited orders that import companies had placed due to the ongoing financial crisis, resulting in insufficient stock to satisfy the huge demand which has arisen.

?According to surveys, Attica needs about 500,000 decoders, while only about 100,000 have been imported,? Stefanos Peramatzelis, chief executive officer at View Master, an importing and trading company for audiovisual and satellite systems, told Kathimerini. He expects the shortages to be much more evident as of today, and sees the problem growing next week.

Prices for simple decoders start from 29.90 euros and go up to 49.90, and more sophisticated ones may exceed 100 euros. While the expensive models may require professional installation, costing up to 30 euros, the simple set-top boxes are easy to install and cover standard-definition (SD) as well as high-definition (HD) sets. An extra cable is also necessary, costing 2-9 euros.

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