CHENNAI: As India prepares itself for another revolution in television broadcast that would bring down the curtain on the dated analogue TV broadcast, there seem to be a war brewing between cable and DTH. Both distribution platforms are currently engaged in an advertising battle with the introduction of multiple campaigns to woo the customer.
However, the big question remains: Which is better? Should one remain with cable or make the move to DTH? Before making the big shift, consumers need to check on what is the best value-for-money proposition currently available in the market. From July 1, 2012 if you have an STB at home either from your local cable operator or DTH, life seems set to continue without any change. But for the remaining 126 million cable and satellite homes, transformation is in the offing. Today digital STBs provided by your cable operator are likely to cost the equivalent of a new DTH connection, about `1000.
Unlike before, cable TV subscribers will probably have to pay more now for the channels. That is because the cable operators will no longer be able to provide ultra-cheap connections by cheating on subscription levels and multiple connections on the same premises.
Monthly bills may go up only for those who want many pay-channels. A basic tier of free-to-air channels will be available for `100 a month. But pay- channels like Star Plus, Zee, Sony and Colors will not be part of this bouquet unless they wish to become free-to-air. Consumers worried about the pains of the changeover in TV technology and STBs have the option of simply switching to DTH, an already proven and price-competitive alternative to cable TV. In fact, DTH promises the consumer freedom from cable operators’ frequently capricious infrastructure and unreliable service.
So with DTH and cable scoring equally on hardware and subscription prices, the basis of what to go for will be product features and customer service.
For years all of us have suffered from poor customer service at the hands of cable companies, primarily because there was no competition. But DTH companies have really raised the bar for customer service in the last five years. Companies like Tata Sky offer 24x7 call centres, assurance of service charge refund, relocation service across the country, making the customer king.
Even of the other options that are being advertised by cable operators, they are yet to offer the facility of high definition digital video recorder which DTH players like Tata Sky are offering to their customers. Other key differentiators are remote recording from the mobile and Internet, ad free music, advanced English teaching classes from British Council and hundred of games offered by DTH. If you are looking at a complete value-for-money proposition, DTH seems to have the edge over cable and as things stack up it doesn’t look like cable operators will be able to match any of these features soon. So if a consumer has to pay same amount for the set top box it is better to take a DTH connection like Tata Sky than go to a cable operator.
All in all, the real winner will be the consumer.