Sales of inexpensive converter boxes that allow older televisions to receive digital signals have been strong this year — a bad omen for sales of new televisions heading into the holidays.
An estimated 15 percent of American households still get their television for free with antennas that receive analog signals, according to the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress.
But in February, all U.S. television stations will begin broadcasting solely in digital signals.
Consumers with older TVs that don't subscribe to satellite or cable services will have to buy a converter box for each set or buy new digital televisions.
Retailers and manufacturers were counting on stronger television sales this year, partly because of the digital changeover, and partly due to the ongoing shift to high-definition sets.
But so far, surprising numbers of Americans are sticking with their old TVs and buying converters, which retail for $50 to $75, instead of paying hundreds more for a new television.