3 Reasons To Not Get Your $40 DTV Coupon Yet

The government is giving out $40 coupons for digital TV converters (background: Federal law mandates that all broadcasters switch to digital signals in 2009, meaning that you will need to get a little doohicky box if your set only takes analog signals) but you shouldn’t get it quite yet. Crave tells us why:

3. Current devices are bound to get cheaper.
2. Better and less expensive units are coming down the pike.
1. The coupon expires in 3 months.

Don’t sign up for your $40 DTV converter box coupon–yet [Crave]


Edit Your Comment

  1. zentex says:

    damnit, now ya tell me!

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    What I’d like to clarify is if I can use this coupon for a HDTV reciever. I have a projector I use in my home theater. I’ve been thinking of buying a stand alone HDTV reciever (with a VGA or RGB output) for the over the air HD channels. I have a feeling that those might not qualify :(

  3. AMetamorphosis says:

    I did send in for my coupons not knowing that they would be stupid enough to have these expire in only three months. I would have thought they would have been good till when the switch takes place in Feb of 2009.

    I took mine w/ me to Best Buy last week and left them on top of converter boxes so someone hopefully @ least got 40 off their boxes …

  4. CaptainSemantics says:

    I had this hyper-paranoid scene evolving in my head where all the coupons (there’s a limited amount, right?) gobbled up an on eBay come Feb 2009. So I was a dummy and signed up for them.

    Then I thought about it, and realized if that had happened, there would be such a flux of them that the price probably wouldn’t be that high for them. An economist, I am not. :(

  5. Toof_75_75 says:

    Agreed…it’s a little late, now.

  6. ideagirl says:

    We picked up our two converters last week. I think “middle America” (your average TV watching Joe and Joanne) is going to throw a fit when they find out how difficult and different tuning in digital signals is from analog. We are IT professionals and it took about three days to really get it dialed in. Even with an antenna on the roof, the reception can be very finicky. The signal is either ON or OFF, there ain’t no middle ground. On the plus side, we went from four watchable stations to 12. That is a bonus.

  7. Best Buy was selling the converters for $59 apiece a couple weeks ago when I got mine. As long as they have new $1000 flatscreens they’d rather sell, I doubt they’ll let the converter boxes out the door for less than that, no matter what the wholesale price is. But we’ll see.

  8. @ideagirl: Three days? It took me three minutes. Unfortunately, we went from five barely watchable stations to three clear ones. Thanks to the fact that the Syracuse CBS affiliate supposedly covers the Utica TV market on paper, I can’t watch Letterman anymore, even with snow.

  9. Nytmare says:

    dtv2009.com has certificate errors; it would be better to link to dtv2009.gov instead. Who knows whether the “.com” version is legit or a phishing clone?

  10. scoosdad says:

    @AlteredBeast: No. The coupons arrive with a list of eligible converter boxes, and it’s a pretty small list:


    These boxes are not designed to give an HD-type output. Most of them have only composite video and audio, and/or a TV channel RF output. After all, the program is designed to give digital broadcast access (note I didn’t say “HDTV”) to non-digital TV sets, not to provide cheap high def tuners.

  11. scoosdad says:

    @nytmare: Right, DTV2009-dot-gov is the correct URL, not dot-com.

    Sort of like the “freecreditreport-dot-com” versus “annualcreditreport” thing?

  12. Jamie Beckland says:

    Now you tell me! I just bought my two this weekend.

  13. VermilionSparrow says:

    I quit watching TV 3 and a half years ago when I moved into an apartment where I can’t seem to get a signal unless I put the TV out on the balcony. I can’t justify the cost of cable for the miniscule amount of time I spend watching TV; I just want to know whether I’ll be able to get a signal with a converter box to know if it’s worth the effort to get one.

  14. spudohio says:

    Aren’t reasons #1 and #2 essentially the same?

  15. philipbarrett2003 says:

    Question – What looks better?
    a) OTR HD on a good SD TV or
    b) compressed or upscaled Satellite/Cable pseudo-HD on an HD TV

    This is not a pathetic attempt at irony or sarcasm, I’m wondering if it’s worth replacing my Mitsubishi SD TV with an HD set as I only watch OTR through a Tivo-HD.

  16. MakGeek says:

    I love that the Gov’t is wasting money advertising these coupons on cable channels, anyone else smell bacon?

  17. mtarget says:

    Walmart has the boxes for $49.99. Gave my fuzzy little 13″ set a perfectly clear picture with quite a few extra channels, so I can’t complain. We live in the Detroit area and I can’t seem to pick up the canadian channels anymore. I’m guessing they have different plans for this?

  18. lonewolf333 says:

    Too late I’m getting my coupon next week. I’ll get the walmart one.

  19. uberbucket says:

    Limit 2 per household and they are not legally transferable from what I have read, so the ‘Get a ton of them and ebay away’ scheme might not be feasible.

    I got 2 for my mother as she lives out in the country and doesn’t really watch that much tv anyways.

  20. uberbucket says:

    Oh, and there’s a limit number of these so I didn’t want to take the chance of waiting ’till the last second and then not being able to get any.

    I’m a cheap bastard.

  21. anatak says:

    3. Current devices are bound to get cheaper.
    >>I’m not betting on that until after the Feb 2009 threshold – retailers have no reason to drop the prices when the government is driving customers in with coupons for 2/3s off. They have a captive audience.

    2. Better and less expensive units are coming down the pike.
    >>On that note, don’t buy an HDTV, iPod, laptop, or any other electronic device, because better and cheaper ones are coming down the pike. Also, better units may be coming. Cheaper units may be coming. Will they be better AND cheaper? Or will they use this as an opportunity to upsell sell you into a more expensive unit and pocket the profit. I’m betting on the latter.

    1. The coupon expires in 3 months.
    >>At which point, what will be different? See above.

    If you want to continue watching fuzzy channels that come and go with the weather and time of day, and really believe that you will benefit by waiting. Then wait. If you want more channels, crystal-clear reception, simulcasting, and free OTA HD, then drop the $20 (after gov’t subsidy) and get one today. You really aren’t out much if you upgrade in a year when there is a demonstrably better product that is actually on the market – at whatever price they set that at. Keep in mind that most of these retailers are more interested in selling you a digital TV than having a converter box at a lower price.

    Otherwise, this is just fear mongering.

  22. KIRZEN2007 says:

    Second clarification for those without research skills.

    1 > This will only affect you if you are currently using an -antenna- to recieve over the air programming. If you’re currently recieving cable coverage from your cable provider, you won’t be effected in the least (Call you cable company, if you’re unsure if they’re making any changes to your cable coverage). Same deal if you’re currently using satellite. Essentially the only change will be for customers using an antenna to collect local programming.

    2 > If you really want the whole deal on this coupon, go to the site and take a look at what’s going on, there’s no excuse for not understanding the changes in coverage if you’re one of the few people effected as indicated above.

    3 > No, the devices are not going to ‘get cheaper’ or ‘get better’. Why? Simply because most new televisions are now coming equipped with a digital tuner built right into them. In fact almost all of the new product sold in the USA has an ATSC tuner, and by law a store has to put a specific tag on any television that -doesn’t- have a digital tuner in it, to warn the customer that they would need a conversion box. But the conversion box isn’t going to suddenly get cheaper or become more effective at doing anything, and this voucher offer will likely not be repeated. If you’re effected, understand what’s going on, and take steps to make sure that when the day does roll around you’re not staring blankly at your tv and pounding in its side wondering why your antenna isn’t picking up your favorite channel…

  23. ShadowFalls says:

    I requested two a few months ago and never received anything… I am guessing at this point, it doesn’t matter how long you wait to request them, you won’t get them.

  24. r081984 says:

    A friend just told me that she bought a converter for $40 at Walmart. Walmart is the only place that I have heard of that actually sells it cheap enough to be free after the coupon.

  25. tande says:

    @anatak: I totally agree that half the stuff you see in the blogosphere is little more then fear mongering. I don’t know a single person who is going to be affected by the digital transition yet I still hear people in the area talking about how they are going to have to get a box or a new TV, which in this area just isn’t true.

    I did think I should point out that you aren’t going to get “free OTA HD” with one of the coupons. The converters that are availible won’t do HD. They’ll give you an improved quality SD picture but if you want a converter with HD, DVR, or other features, the coupon won’t cover it.

  26. forgottenpassword says:

    I assumed the coupons would run out so I got mine early. Mine expires next month.

    Currently It would cost me roughly 10 dollars (w/coupon) to get the cheapest box.

  27. P41 says:

    FYI at the current major stores, supposedly the Magnavox has better reception but has heat problems and a poor remote control compared to the RCA. And differences in the guide. The Digital Stream supposedly is better than the Zenith, but not sure how it compares to Magnavox and RCA. The word is that another one called Echostar is supposed to hit the shelves in June or July and can be programmed to switch channels at certain times for VCRs to record. And may even hit $40 price. Talk is cheap so we’ll see. Also the gov site for the rebates claims there’s about a two month lead time on mailing rebates, if that’s true ordering now would get a rebate that expires around July.

    The rebates don’t apply to things just because they have a digital tuner, I guess tuner only or it doesn’t get certified.

    Oh also there are people who reported disconnecting their cable because the picture was so good. But it depends on your reception, if its borderline you’ll think you’re watching a badly scratched DVD. If less than borderline, you won’t have anything, rather than analog where you can still see something through the static.

  28. forgottenpassword says:


    Well that’s just great! :( I rely heavily on my vcr to record primetime shows while at work!

    Well, looks like the best strategy for me is to buy a converter now with the coupon (for 10 bucks), then wait til the switchover & then maybe buy a new tv then if I have to. :(

  29. JustAGuy2 says:


    One of the targets for these boxes are people who have cable in the living room, but rabbit ears on the TV in the kitchen, for example.

  30. TruPhan says:

    Thank God you posted this today. I was actually going to register my coupon tonight!

  31. sasper says:

    @zentex: Exactly what I said when I read this… mine showed up in the mail yesterday!

  32. scoosdad says:

    @r081984: Your friend may be “rounding down”. The one that Walmart is carrying in the store is a Magnavox TB100MW9, and they’re charging $49.87 for it.

  33. ideagirl says:

    @Steaming Pile: The signals for half the stations come in with the paddle turned n/s, the other half come in with the paddle turned e/w. I live in a fairly rural area. So yes, THREEI imagine your signals are all coming in from

  34. ideagirl says:

    stupid computers LOL…

    @Steaming Pile: The signals for half the stations come in with the paddle turned n/s, the other half come in with the paddle turned e/w. I live in a fairly rural area. So yes, THREE days to find the finicky little position that grabs all the signals at once. I imagine your signals are all coming in from complimentary directions.

  35. barty says:

    @JustAGuy2: That’s what the wife and I are doing. We’ve got a TV out on our added-on sun porch that has no cable hookups and to run one out there would necessitate drilling through brick and concrete. We’re close enough to Atlanta that we should be able to pick up most channels over the air satisfactorily with a DTV tuner.

    @ideagirl: Contrary to popular belief, TV stations don’t have some large antenna farm where everyone transmits from. Back when putting an antenna on the roof was the ONLY way to get TV, antenna rotators were popular for that very reason. Unless you lived close enough to the transmission antennas that the receiving antenna orientation didn’t matter, you’d have to move the antenna a little bit to pick up some channels, particularly UHF.

  36. anatak says:

    @tande: Well, now you know (of) one. We’re all OTA.

    But you are correct – you aren’t getting HD with out and HDTV, and if you have that, it likely has the digital tuner. But you can at least get the wide screen format from the HD channels.

    You also get full-time local weather from the local networks (usually labeled WX).

  37. In California, cash-valued gift certificates never expire. I wonder if the $40 DTV coupon could be construed as a gift certificate.

  38. flashing12 says:

    It is not a gift certificate…it is a coupon. Same as $.50 off a package of toilet paper at the supermarket

  39. RobDLG says:

    Be aware that the “coupons can be ordered one at a time” [dtv2009.gov].

  40. f3rg says:

    @RobDLG: “Each household can request a maximum of two coupons. Each coupon may be applied towards the purchase of a single converter box. The coupons can be ordered one at a time or both at the same time.”

    I applied for my coupons last week. My wife and I realized we pretty much never watch TV anymore except for the local news and a couple NBC shows, which we’ll still be able to get. World news and other entertainment all comes from the internet, so we can save about $45/month by canceling our cable.

  41. smartalec says:

    CBN was supposed to convert to a signal by region in which a special rabbit ears antenna would pick up the signal from CBN and split it into three different shows. What ever happened to this?

    In regards to the digital converter box. Do we need a special rabbit ears antenna to pick up the signal? Or would a special digital antenna improve the quality and or bring in more watchable stations.