Choosing a DTH provider in India is tougher than choosing a spouse. I have had a Full HD 32″ LCD TV for a year but I was still running on the old cable connection. Finally I thought it’s time to move on. Main lure was the presence of HD channels. Lots of channels are now available in High Definition and I also wanted a DVR to be able to record shows and pause live TV. So I began hunting for a DTH service.
I had following options to choose from
Airtel Digital TV
Reliance Big TV
Sun Direct DTH
First I asked my cable guy if they have a Set top box. They do have but it’s not HD and no DVR so it was out of contention. Hathway Cable has started HD services but they are not available in my locality. (Cable guys have divided areas amongst themselves to avoid competition)
Dish and TataSky are oldest in India. Airtel, Reliance, Videocon and Sun are new and boast of MPEG-4 compression which seemingly has better quality over MPEG-2 of the older players. So At first I decided to only look at the four new players.
Sun is strong in south but their HD offerings were least exciting. Their web site is also enough to put someone off instantly. So that was out immediately.
Reliance is boasting of providing 250 HD channels but all of them are upscaled. The real HD channels are only 6 whereas Airtel and Videocon have 10 and 11 respectively. So the choice was quickly narrowed down to Airtel and Videocon.
I was more interested in English movies and infotainment channels like Discovery and Nat Geo. Videocon had more HD channels that mattered to me. Airtel didn’t have ESPN, Star Cricket and Travel XP in HD instead they had UTV stars and History TV. Videocon didn’t have History TV in HD but had the other three. The main lure was Travel XP, because I had seen that one at a hotel and instantly liked it. Only Videocon and Dish TV carry Travel XP at the moment. Videocon had the best price. Their highest package (Platinum+HD) included all their channels and HD for Rs. 441 per month and even less if I prepaid for entire year. The same thing was costing Rs.486 at Airtel where HD had to be bought separately and all HD channels were not part of that bouquet. Videocon only had a 160 GB hard disk in the DVR against 320 GB of Airtel but I thought I could live with that.
Meanwhile I also checked out TataSky and Dish TV. Dish didn’t really have too much to offer in HD department and they didn’t have a HD DVR either (at least I couldn’t find one on their site) besides Dish’s highest plan was at 550 something so I put a cross mark against it. Then I looked at TataSky. They had 8 HD channels. The 3 missing ones were Colors, Movies Now and Travel XP. Missing Movies Now HD was a huge minus for me. TataSky was the first to introduce DVR in India and they have the largest capacity disk on DVR – 500 GB which can record 700 hours of SD programming. That was huge and they had a super annual package that included all of the channels including HD for one year and a fixed price for the entire year. Any new channels added in the next year will be part of this package as well. That was a huge advantage, but videocon was still cheaper and had two HD channels that I cared about – MoviesNow and TravelXP.
So I decided to go with Videocon. I went online to purchase and boom! The HD DVR was no longer available! I called the customer support to enquire for the same, the guy put me hold for 10 minutes and the call dropped. That kind of put me off. Next day I got a call from them and I was told the HD DVR is now available only in Mumbai so they have taken it off website and are selling it only in cash. I didn’t like it. I weighed different options again and once again came to the conclusion that Videocon was best. So I was ready to buy it. Then I decided to check out their Facebook account. And over there I read a comment from someone about History TV not being available! I knew History was not available in HD but not at all?? What the hell!!
History channel was recently relaunched and rebranded as History TV 18 and had some kick ass shows like Ice Road Truckers and was an absolute must! Even my cable guy provided it! Now this was too much. Videocon didn’t have a great website, DVR was not available online, customer support didn’t really look that good and the DVR had only 160 GB storage. Videocon was cancelled and I went back to drawing board. Now the choice was between Airtel and TataSky. I had called TataSky and confirmed, they too had switched to MPEG-4. Airtel had better HD package but was expensive, TataSky had a larger capacity disk and on the online forums I read they had been adding new HD channels regularly over last couple of months. Two months back they didn’t even have these many HD channels. They are slow in adding channels but they do add. And with the Mega Lite pack that I was considering I would get them all at no extra cost. TataSky also has a service called Video On Demand where I can connect the box to Internet and I can download videos, even movies and shows from the past 5 days and I would have ample space to store all the content. At this point I think its a unique feature provided only by TataSky.
So TataSky it was. TataSky+ HD to be specific. I paid Rs. 10,200 for which I got HD DVR with 500 GB hard disk, full year subscription for the Mega Lite pack which included all channels carried by TataSky including HD, 12 showcase movies and 1 year subscription to BusinessWorld magazine. And under a special offer I got 500 Rs. credit in my account. Paid it yesterday, and it was installed at my home today morning.
And I am loving it already! The HD clarity is awesome! Finally my HD TV is doing what it was supposed to do! The DVR is perfect, I have already set it up to record a couple of movies that will be telecast today. They have an app for Android phones where by I can give instructions to record any program from anywhere. In fact I set up one of the movies to be recorded from my mobile. Videocon and Airtel have such programs too but TataSky’s app is most polished and slick amongst all.
I am happy with my decision. Having a couple more HD channels would have been great but I am sure they will be added soon.
Isko laga dala to life jhingalala!