The Best DTH Operators For Your Favourite English Channels

Vishal Ingole
Gone are the days when we would sit around our (black and white) television sets and get hypnotized by the Doodarshan logo and its rather unfortunate soundtrack. Today, we're spoilt for choice, really. With the foray of Direct-to-home (DTH) television into the Indian market, the average television viewer is like Henry VIII - too many wives to know what to do with them. DTH offers consumers a simple setup, competitive and interactive services and of course, gazillion channels to choose from. But therein also lies the conundrum. With the amount of choice that's available in terms of channels, how do consumers know that they are opting for the right DTH provider? Here is our attempt at decoding DTH.

Decoding DTH

In the Indian market, there are 6 major players in the DTH ballgame - Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV, reliance Digital TV, Sun Direct, Tata Sky and Videocon d2h. The very first one to enter the field was Dish TV. Reliance, Airtel and Videocon entered the market a bit later, but have gained much popularity over the years and offer more channels and better technology, comparatively speaking. Not just that, they are also more flexible in allowing consumers to choose channels and packages and give great value for money. Let's break it down further.

Compression Technology

Compression technology refers to the ability of a platform to carry more channel and be more effective without compromising on quality. While Dish TV and Tata Sky offer consumers MPEG-2 compression for their television sets, players like Reliance, Videocon, Airtel DTH and Sun Direct are armed with MPEG-4. Due to their access to DVB S-2 technology, Airtel and Videocon offer consumers more interactive services.

Weather

In most places in India, it rains for up to 3 months in a year. Wouldn't it completely suck if you were stuck indoors with no entertainment because your DTH signal was compromised? With Tata Sky that is a given. Even the lightest showers tend to interfere with the signal services. Other DTH providers provide relatively better in the face of weather.

Automobile Portability

All DTH providers offer consumers service around television, but only Airtel and Dish TV allow them to programming in automobiles.

Tech Rank

When t comes to the service provider that is most poised to the future in terms of being tech-savy, Airtel is the coronated winner.

Number of Channels

The number of channels is probably the make or break for any consumer when it comes to choosing a DTH operator. With each passing day, the number of channels keeps increasing and the choice is widened. There's so much to choose from - Hindi entertainment, sports, infotainment, news, movies, lifestyle channels and tons more. The pioneer in DTH services, Dish TV has more than 280 + plus channels in its kitty, while more recent players like Videocon and Airtel offer more than 225+ channels. Sun and Tata Sky offer 178+ and 189+ channels respectively.

Hindi movie channels and Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs) have been what most of the masses are watching. But with new focus on niche content, the statistics are taking a skeweed perspective. When it comes to English and Hindi new channels, Reliance Digital TV rules the roost, while sports channels are shown by almost every provider. Videocon is known to have the largest HD channel package, with over 12 channels on offer, although today, Tata Sky is close on its heels.

The last couple of years have seen a massive slew of new channels, not all of which are available on every DTH service provider. For instance, Movies Now, which showcases some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, isn't available on Tata Sky, but is available on all other DTH providers. Some o the other newly launches English GEC channels include Big CBS Spark, Big CBS Prime, and Big CBS Love, which are all carried on Sun TV, Reliance Digital TV, and Airtel DTH. Videocon only offers Big CBS Prime. Dish, Videocon and Reliance only carry niche channels such as NGC Adventure, NCG Music, and NGC Wild. While Tata Sky has earlier been known to lag behind in new channel offering as compared to its peers, Airtel and Reliance are the ones that are competing with higher variety in newer channels.

HD Programming

Every DTH service provider offers some level of HD programming to its consumers. When it comes to English entertainment and movies, the undisputed leader is Dish TV, with the most number of channels. After the two ad-free HBO Premium channels - HBO Defined HD and HBO Hits were announced, that is when Dish TV had an added advantage. All channels are offers by Airtel Digital TV, however, HBO Premium is offered only as SD versions. There is no HBO HD on Videocon d2h, but you can enjoy all other HD programming. Reliance Digital TV, Tata Sky and Sun Direct are only offering a few channels each. See the table below for a better idea:

English Movies & Entertainment
Dish TV TruHD Tata Sky HD Airtel Digital TV HD Videocon d2h HD Reliance Digital TV HD Sun Direct HD
Star Movies HD Y Y Y Y Y Y
Zee Studio HD Y N Y Y N Y
Movies Now HD Y N Y Y Y N
HBO Hits HD Y N N N N N
HBO Defined HD Y N N N N N
Star World HD Y Y Y Y N N




So How Does One Make a Choice?

At the end of the day, you should make your choice based on what channels you would like to watch. Most operators offer flexible packages, so that means you can you can get down to the nitty-gritties of picking and choosing channels. Airtel offers efficient customer care and technically advanced services, Sun is South specific and yet to spread to other parts of the country, Dish TV has been around the longest and has the most amount of experience in DTH service, Videocon and Reliance offer a wide choice of programming.


Photo by: Thinkstock Images
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