With several new entrants in the market, the already crowded direct-to-home (DTH) space now has more than enough contenders, such as Dish TV, TataSky, Big TV, Airtel Digital, Sun Direct and Videocon d2h. The battle is getting fierce, and the consumer is spoilt for choice. But who’s complaining?
There are various factors one needs to consider when making a choice about DTH providers. Picture quality, transmission during rough weather, how suitable the package bouquets are, pricing, and, of course, value-added services are just some of the many parameters.
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A DTH service is only as good as the picture quality you get. Some players offer Mpeg4 picture quality, while others offer DVD quality digital transmission. A newer standard is the Mpeg4 with DVB-S2, which stands for digital video broadcasting—second generation. This standard was developed at about the same time as the H.264 video codec. The standard has provision for high-definition (HD) quality. It also allows for enhanced interactive services with access to the Internet. Only, the outgoing data needs to be sent by other transmission methods.
The way channels are bundled together in packages is important—a small price to pay for digital quality and value-added services. The base pack of almost every provider contains free-to-air channels and a few other channels thrown in. The first level of categorization in packages happens in two large geographies— south-specific packages and rest-of-India ones. For around Rs350, a good option is the all-encompassing package, which provides the best value for money when it comes to cost per channel. You get a couple of pay-per-view movies and access to active services thrown in. There are even interesting entry offers by DTH providers, which include the cost of installation and the hardware.
Also See DTH Comparison (Graphic)
The look and feel of the electronic programming guide (EPG) that helps you navigate through all the programming is important. Big TV’s guide, for example, allows you to reorder channels alphabetically or as per numbers. Videocon offers the interface in multiple languages and allows you to customize the on-screen display to a certain extent. A good interface lets you easily access upcoming programme information for at least seven days in advance, gives previews of what is currently playing, and so on.
Also See Feature Snapshot (Graphic)
Movies on demand
DTH providers offer channels where pay-per-view movies are showcased at scheduled start times. It’s important to note here that the number of channels showing movies on demand is not as important as the kind of movies. Some players source the latest content, while others show movies that are not as recent.
Most providers, except Sun Direct, offer interactive services, which let you interact with the services. For example, while watching a cooking show, you could have a pop-up that says press the red button to see similar recipes, or a channel devoted to quizzes.
Some DTH providers such as Dish TV source content from online sources such as matrimonial or job sites. Others, such as Airtel, let you set up widgets that give information and news snippets, weather, stock updates and breaking news at the press of a button without moving away from the main screen.
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