Monday, July 5, 2010

India lacks a fully modular DTH (DBS) TV service

At my home, we have a regular wired cable service provided to us by a local cablewalla. We pay INR 300 per month (total) for cable connection to two television sets (one on the ground floor, and the other on the first floor). We're four people in the home (one family) and the cablewalla knows this, so he doesn't charge us separately for the two TV sets.

His service is just okay, as in
  1. We get nearly every channel (but not all)
  2. The signal is generally available (but sometimes not)
  3. The clarity is just OK (not great though)
I was contemplating switching to DTH service available in India (from Airtel, DishTV, Reliance, Tata, et al.). To my dismay, after conducting some research I realized that at present, I cannot get all the channels that I want on both the television sets for a total of INR 300 (or even 400) per month using DTH service. What a shame!

There is no ready-made package available that fits my needs, nor was I able to create a customized package (using various combinations of the individual packages and add-on packs provided by the service providers). I was surprised and I realized that even though these service providers have ready-to-consume packages priced as low as INR ~125 per month, there is no way in which I can get all the channels that I want on both the TVs and pay a total of INR 300-400 per month.

Which channels do I want? Using this list (by Airtel) as a reference, I want all of these channels, and only these channels: 9X, 9X Music, Aaj Tak, Animal Planet, Animax, AXN, B4U Music, BBC, Bindaas, Bindaas Movies, Cartoon Network, Channel V, CNBC Awaaz, CNBC TV18, CNN, CNN IBN, Colors, DD1, DD News, DD Punjabi, DD Sports, Discovery, Discovery Travel & Living, Disney, ESPN, ET Now, ETC Punjabi, Fashion TV, HBO, Headlines Today, History Channel, Homeshop 18, Hungama, IBN 7, India TV, MGM, MTV, National Geographic, NDTV 24x7, NDTV Good Times, NDTV Imagine, NDTV India, NDTV Profit, NEO Cricket, NEO Sports, News 24, Nick, PIX, Pogo, PTC News, PTC Punjabi, Russia Today, SAB TV, Sahara Filmy, Sahara ONE, SET MAX, Sony, Star Cricket, Star Gold, Star Movies, Star News, Star ONE, Star Plus, Star Sports, Star Utsav, Star World, TEN Sports, Times NOW, UTV Hindi Movies, WB, Zee Business, Zee Cafe, Zee Cinema, Zee News, Zee Punjabi, Zee Sports, Zee Studio, Zee Trendz, Zee TV, Zoom

That adds up to 80 channels, less than the 93 channels in Airtel's cheapest package (Super Value Pack at INR 115 + taxes per month). Even if the higher individual cost of many of the channels in my list is taken into account, the total cost of these 80 channels shouldn't exceed INR 200-250 a month. A reasonable INR 100-150 for the second TV should allow me to have all my channels on both the TVs for INR 300-400 a month.

What's disappointing is that currently none of the DTH service providers in India allow a customer to pick only the channels he wants. One is forced to have pointless and undesired channels which one does not need or want, and pay for these. A possible reason for this is that some media companies price and sell their channels in groups/packs, rather than individually, making it impossible for DTH providers to allow these to be picked individually.

To summarize, it's both sad and alarming that an Indian customer can't pick only the specific channels he wants and pay just for these. Perhaps a future DTH operator will use this as a differentiating factor. Till then, I'm stranded with the local cablewalla.

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