When Did TV Go Digital?

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Updated January 24, 2023

To answer the question of when did TV go digital, consumers should remember some essential government deadlines. Most full-power broadcast stations eliminated analog signals on June 12, 2009. However, some maintained analog “nightlight” service until July 12, 2009. Finally, the FCC mandated that low-power stations and transmitters be converted by July 13, 2021. These government regulations led to the creation of some of the best TVs on the market.


  • The national switch to digital TV for full-power broadcasters happened on June 12, 2009.
  • After the switch to digital TV, many analog TV owners had to get a digital converter or a new TV.
  • Most TVs sold after 2007 contain a digital receiver.

Digital TV Switch in the U.S.

The switch to digital for full-power TV stations occurred on June 12, 2009. These stations had to end their regular programming on analog signals by 11:59 p.m. in their time zone that day. This change resulted from the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, though the switch was supposed to be on February 17, 2009. This Act did not wholly eliminate analog broadcasting. About 120 full-power stations briefly maintained analog “nightlight” service for another month. Low-power stations continued analog broadcast until July 13, 2021, though this date was originally supposed to be September 1, 2015.

As part of the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, the government established a federally sponsored DTV Converter Box Coupon Program. Unfortunately, the initial funding provided by the Act missed millions of households. These families’ coupons would have exceeded the allotment. To rectify this lack of funding, the government added funding for extra coupons through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Additionally, the date for full-power stations was pushed back due to many Americans not having converters yet. If you wish to learn more, you can read our page on what is digital TV.

Ways to Connect an Analog TV in Today’s Digital World

After the switch to digital TV, only 7% of viewers were affected by the loss of analog broadcasts, the remainder subscribing to cable or satellite services, but this produced 1,800 calls to the FCC for assistance. However, many American households were using a DTV converter still. Additionally, after March of 2007, all new TVs were required to have a built-in digital tuner so that consumers did not have to use these converters anymore. These digital tuners are not to be confused with a TV tuner however, as that only received an analog signal.

External DTV Converters

External DTV converters, like those used after the initial switch, receive the digital broadcast. The device then converts the signal to analog, which an analog TV can pick up. To install these devices, the user will need to unplug the coaxial antenna wire from the “Antenna In (RF)” power and move it to the “Antenna In (RF)” port on the converter box. Then, plug one end of the coaxial wire that comes with the converter into the “Out To TV (RF)” port and the other into the “Antenna In (RF)” port on the TV. Next, plug the box and the TV into a power outlet and turn them both on. Finally, follow the remainder of the instructions that came with the converter.

Alternate cable box

Cable or satellite providers may allow consumers to rent a box that will convert digital cable signals back to analog. If the cable or satellite box allows RCA-style AV inputs, three-prong with red, white, and yellow, owners may connect to an external DTV converter with the same connection option. These capabilities included what to look for in a gaming TV as many old consoles had the RCA style AV inputs. Additionally, if you are using a cable box and your picture appears fuzzy, the connection you used could be the culprit. To learn how to fix this you can read our article on why is my TV fuzzy.

The final option for owners of analog TVs comes in the form of purchasing a new TV. These TVs already contain a digital receiver, and they often come with more capability than analog TVs. This increase stems from the resolution of an analog system being lower than that of a digital one. In addition, smart TVs are also available that allow users to watch their streaming services on the screen. In some cases, these smart TVs also enable them to “cast” the content from other smart electronics to the TV. You should also check why a curved TV would be a great option for you. But if you’re looking for CRT TVs for gaming, CRT TVs are still the way to go for retro games.


Will I need a new antenna to get digital TV?

No, the same antenna can be used. However, the signal will need to go through a converter box.

Does a converter box need an antenna?

Yes, a converter box needs the signal received by the antenna to convert it.

Do smart TVs need a converter box?

Smart TVs receive digital content regularly, and they are designed to do so. Therefore, smart TVs do not require a converter box.

STAT: Only 7% of viewers were affected by the loss of analog broadcasts, the remainder subscribing to cable or satellite services, but this produced 1,800 calls to the FCC for assistance. (source)

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