New DTH regime woes

Subscribers are still finding their way through the maze of options on service provider websites.

The new regime allows you to leave out channels you seldom watch, but end up paying for since they come in a package.

In December, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced a change in DTH and cable rates, and suggested customers would soon be paying less.

From February 1, customers can pay only for the channels they watch, and avoid packages with channels that don’t interest them.

A week into the new regime, customers Metrolife spoke to were still figuring out how to go about the selection.

Base package

Under the new rules, cable and DTH operators have to put out a list of channels with individual prices. 

The base pack across service providers is Rs 130 plus 18 per cent GST, adding up to Rs 153. This brings you 100 channels, including mandatory Prasar Bharati ones. If you choose an HD channel, it will be counted as two SD channels. If you choose more than 100 channels, the Network Capacity Fee (NCF) is Rs 20 for the next slab of 25 channels. However, the amount you finally pay will depend on the ‘a la carte’ (individual) channels and bouquet packs you choose.

Here is a Metrolife reality check:

Dish TV

The pages on this website took a long time to load. Dish TV offers categories titled Dish Combo, Channels, and Bouquets. You can leave out channels by using their language and category filters.

From the four bouquets we chose (Zee Super Pack Kannada SD, Zee All In One Pack All-South HD, Times Bouquet 2 and Star Tamil Value), our final bill came to Rs 509.76. When we clicked ‘Submit,’ a pop-up window recommended a package for Rs 344.68. But here’s the catch — we couldn’t modify the new pack. Overall, while the proposal of a cheaper deal sounds good, what you get might not have all the channels you want to watch.

In the Kannada pack, we found a couple of news channels, and non-Kannada channels such as Zee Keralam. The Super Kannada package offered by Zee included Bollywood entertainment channels such as Zee ETC Bollywood and Zee TV.

Tata Sky

The moment you log in, you see three options: ‘Recommended for you,’ ‘Tata Sky packs’ and ‘All packs.’

We opted for a base pack with two new bouquets offered by the service provider, and covering English and Kannada news. The subscription came to Rs 176. Earlier, Hindi channels were mandatorily packaged with the base package; you can now leave them out and save. 

The plan worked perhaps because we decided to keep it simple, just choosing Kannada and English news channels. The bouquet options weren’t too confusing. But if you want to modify your choice, and press the ‘Back’ button, you have to start from scratch, choosing channels all over again. And once you choose your channels and submit, it is not easy to modify your plan.

Videocon D2H

The options here were ‘D2H Combo,’ ‘Channels’ and ‘Broadcaster Bouquets.’ It wasn’t difficult to choose the packages. The final subscription for the four bouquets we chose (Bouquet 2 Happy India, All South Value 1, Kannada Tamil Value 2 and Star Tamil Value) came up to Rs 377.66.

Like with Dish TV, we were offered a ‘compare selection’ option that could bring down the subscription to Rs 298.54. We called customer care. Of the two toll-free numbers on the website, one was working and it was in Kannada. Interestingly, Videocon is giving 185 channels with the base pack of Rs 153, instead of the mandatory 100. But remember, the channels are picked by them, and may not include the channels you want to watch.

What customers say...

Jobin P, analyst, has had a hard time trying to change his plan. He says, “I had called the customer care a couple of times but I was always put on hold or asked to call later. I wanted to understand what I should be doing but I didn’t get much help. So I ended up recharging for Rs 200 and not altering my old plan.”

S Ankit, marketing professional, says, “I haven’t recharged my DTH subscription as it’s quite time consuming. The server of my service provider was slow and I didn’t have the patience for it to load each page.”

Many subscribers Metrolife spoke to said they hadn’t found the time to change their plans.

Still early days

It will take time for the new regime to settle down. The FTA (free-to-air) category includes 25 mandatory Prasar Bharati ones. Global market analytics company Crisil believes subscription rates will go up for most users.


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