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 DTH: A tell-tale vision

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PostSubject: DTH: A tell-tale vision   07/09/08, 10:44 am

Even as direct-to-home services are catching up, snags like service and higher installation costs are keeping customers at bay.

Abbas Chinoy, a resident of Kurla recently got rid of his local cable operator for a dishtv connection. The reason: Every time there was a power cut in the cable operator’s area (which was quite often) his television also went blank – a rather common grouse among the households that have shifted from analog connections to digital.

Joseph Miranda from Borivili has a completely different story to tell. He bought a Tata SKY connection for Rs 5,000 last year only to be told by his housing society that he could not install the disk antenna on the terrace. The result: His box is lying idle in a cupboard for the last eight months.

His frustration also stems from the fact that Tata SKY has not even called him once to find out the reason for his connection is not being used. “The customer service department has not even bothered to contact me since their people went back,” says an angry Miranda.

Same service, but two completely different stories.

The direct-to-home (DTH) services have been launched with a lot of fanfare and heavy advertising. Celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan (Zee’s dishtv) and more recently, Aamir Khan (Tata SKY) are being roped in to promote their respective services. Reliance ADAG’s BIG TV entered the market with promises of better technology (MPEG 4) and 200 channels.

DTH has other advantages as well – better picture quality, choice of channels and a whole basket of other services. “We can choose channels like, the History Channel and a few English movies channels that the cable operator was not providing. Many unwanted channels can simply be blocked,” explains Bakul Gadgil, a resident of Thane.

Since the set-top-box is portable, it can be shifted from one location to another with ease. The installation charges for shifting is around Rs 1,000. Also, there are a whole lot of value-added services. Matrimonial features, games, video-on-demand, children’s education, religious packages and others are already on offer.

However, the major deterrent for DTH consumers is the initial set up cost of Rs 4,000 – Rs 5,000. “It isn’t easy to convince people to invest in a set-top-box,” admits Salil Kapoor, COO, dishtv. In comparison, the cable operator charges only Rs 500-Rs 1,000. The maintenance cost is nearly the same between Rs 250 and Rs 300. But depending on the additional channels that one wants, the cost of DTH could go up from Rs 5 to Rs 100.

The initial cost is not the only issue. For customers like Archana Jha from Navi Mumbai, the problem is servicing. Despite her several calls to dishtv’s call centre, her set-top-box, which had a technical snag, was not replaced for over a month.

To meet such challenges, companies are ramping up their back-end operations. For instance, dishtv has 25,000 personnel taking care of post-sale services. It has 575 distributors and 45,000 dealers, according to Kapoor. Tata SKY has 30,000 dealers across the country with three multi-lingual call centres and 3,000 service engineers.

Also, Tata SKY is tying up with over 60 builders nationally to provide a ready connection when a buyer moves in. This would also come cheaper since the building would have a multiple dwelling unit (MDU).

For ones who are planning to shift from their existing cable operator to DTH, this is good news. As more and more players enter the market, there will be better services and packages on offer. And it means more value for money.

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