Best Buy Co. Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and six other retailers will sell equipment enabling owners of analog television sets to continue to view programming after the 2009 nationwide switch to digital broadcasting, the federal government said Tuesday.
Starting Jan. 1, an estimated 13 million to 21 million households that rely on an antenna to watch TV can contact the government to receive two coupons worth $40 each to buy converter boxes.
The $1.5 billion program — which is enough to fund 33.5 million coupons — ends March 31, 2009.
Retailers will begin selling the devices, which translate the digital signal for such TV sets, in mid February.
The other major retailers include Circuit City Stores Inc., Target Corp., Sears Holdings Corp. and its Kmart outlets and RadioShack Corp. Wal-Mart's Sam's Club stores will also sell the devices.
"Over 100 retailers have been certified including a variety of small stores retail chains and these very large retailers," said Meredith Baker, who is the acting administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the coupon program.
"We have nationwide coverage with over 14,000 brick and mortar stores involved as well as with online participation," she added during a telephone conference with journalists.
The nation's broadcasters on Feb. 17, 2009 will be turning off their analog over-the-air broadcasts. Cable and satellite TV providers said they will ensure their subscribers continue to view programming after the switch.