UNTIL RECENTLY regarded as a pie in the sky, direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television suddenly has the service providers beaming.
Fed up with turf wars among cablewallahs — and the resultant blackouts — and lured by the promise of a whole new world of digitised, interactive television, an increasing number of residents are plugging into the DTH experience. .
And entertainment, it must be said, has never been quite this dishy.
With pay-per-view and movies on demand coupled with razor sharp pictures and digital sound, DTH is sheer nirvana for the couch potato.
The major differentiator between cable services and DTH, though, is active-a-facility which enables DTH subscribers to view news and live sports broadcasts in multiple languages with multi-camera angles, highlights, and statistics.
Although three DTH services, Tata Sky-a joint venture between Tata and Star TV, the Zee-owned DishTV and DD’s free-to-air (FTA), are available in the City, the real fight is between the two private players.
Despite is a difference of nearly Rs 1,000, both have devised innovative schemes to woo subscribers. DishTV, which has bagged 1.4 million subscribers nationwide since its launch in 2004, is surfing the digital plank.
“Watch 160 digital channels directly via satellite irrespective of your TV’s channel capacity,” promises the brochure. For 75 channels – almost all channels of Zee, STAR, Sony bouquets, ESPN, all regional channels, excepting those from Sun TV which is coming up with its own DTH service – DishTV charges Rs 3,190, plus installation, for the dish and set-top-box with a monthly charge of Rs 225.
As a further incentive DishTV is providing buyers 75 channels free for the first three months. Just one word of caution. The Rs 3190 payment does not grant ownership of the DishTV set-top box but is only the rental for a five-year period after which you’d be required to pay an equal amount again.
Tata Sky, on the other hand, pegs ‘more choice’ and ‘greater convenience’ as its USP. It currently offers 120 channels – STAR, Sony, DD and ETV bouquets, NDTV, Aaj Tak, popular regional channels and a little crystal gazing with Bejan Daruwalla–at Rs 200 per month.
For sheer ease of use and innovativeness, though, the latter wins hand down. Switch on and you are greeted with a ons; Guide, Organiser, Showcase and Active.
Choose, say Guide, and you get a lowdown on all the channels listed in a particular segment like news or entertainment with a weekly schedule listing times and dates of all programmes therein.
The active news feature enables you to skip the entire content and surf channels only for headlines or breaking news. Similarly, Active Sports, apart from the features listed above gives you highlights on demand and player statistics at the push of a button.
“Even people who are initially skeptical are amazed by the variety and quality once the service is demonstrated to them”, declares Tata Sky engineer Vaibhav Sakargaye stationed at the firm’s DTH counter at Selmore Electronics at MTH Compound.
“In the last 45 days we have sold nearly 70 units from this counter alone”, he informs. Although Sumit Luthra, sales manager, MP region, refuses to disclose figures declaring it to be “too early to comment as we only launched a month and a half ago”, he is confident that business will continue to boom.
“Going by recent trends, the sales figures will witness at least a ten-fold increase over the next few months”, he asserts. In other words, the dish staring into the sky from an increasing number of roofs will become a problem staring cable operators squarely in the face unless they mend their ways.