Latest confirmation is that the deadline for Digital Migration is still on December 13th despite media owners’ reservations about the date.If you are interested on details of Digital broadcast works read Comprehensive Guide on Digital Migration. In that post we mentioned that it would be appropriate for everyone including those on Pay TV to buy the STBs (Set Top Boxes). This article explains the options the different Pay TV providers have put in place for offering Free To Air channels (FTA) as part of Digital Migration programme.
If you are a Dstv provider then you are the unluckiest ones. Dstv seem not have any plans in place to ensure that local FTA channels are available for viewers despite the call by CCK to all Pay TV providers to ensure that all local FTA channels are truly free. This is what Dstv told us in a statement when we asked them to clarify if they have any plans to offer FTA channel for free, “all our decoders are digital compliant and will not be affected negatively by the analogue switch off”. If you are on Dstv, a separate Top Box is a must have unless you are sure there won’t be a month you will fail to pay the subscription.
Zuku Satellite has some on-going talks on what route to take for offering FTA for free. In a statement Zuku representative assured us that the top management and technical team are currently in board meetings discussing the best way for providing FTA for free; whether they will take StarTimes route or go the Gotv. Unknown is when the discussions will conclude. Zuku Satellite subscribers can hold on what the management will agree on. The better solution between Gotv’s method and StarTimes method would be the Gotv’s method.
Zuku Cable (Triple Play) offer you their equipment under some agreement, then you have to use their packages under the terms of the agreement. Failure to pay for the monthly subscriptions allows you to watch the local FTA channels for a time (about three months – the cable representative was not sure of the time allowed) then failure to renew your subscriptions they come to your premise and collect their equipment. They have told us that the model they currently have does not allow them to have a way out as the equipment is not the subscriber’s at least for the first year. For assured availability of FTA at all times, those on Zuku cable should also buy STBs. Detailed terms and conditions of use can be found here.
StarTimes has an interesting solution to the FTA for free problem. They are offering a new decoder that will be able to Air the FTA channels at no monthly subscription. The decoder goes for Kshs 5,000. Here is the link to clarification from CCK regarding the StarTime’s FTA decoders; Post by Digital TV Kenya. Some subscribers have complained about the StarTimes move in that people with old decoders will be required to buy the new ones. What everyone seem to be saying is that transmission and management of Pay TV content is determined at the source and not at the decoder. People are saying that the same method for disabling viewing of premium content when one is subscribed to basic should be used to disable all contents other than local FTA channels. This argument should also apply to Dstv and Zuku. Basically StarTime subscribers may choose to buy the Shs. 5,000 decoder or buy a different decoder at Shs. 3,500, whichever way makes economic sense. Those with old decoders might be allowed to return the decoders but the matter is still under discussions.
Finally Gotv has the best offer. What Gotv did was to come up with a bouquet that requires user to pay a one time fee of Kshs 2,600 that will allow subscribers to continue receiving FTA channels without having to pay monthly fees. Anyone on Gotv should just go ahead and make this payment as there is no decoder this affordable. The cheapest FTA STBs we have seen so far sell for Kshs 3500. I would also advise those in buying STBs to consider buying Gotv decoders instead. Gotv, in addition to providing the FTA, will also allow you to watch the paid for content in months that you can afford the subscription fee. We asked Dstv why they can’t also give us this good deal yet Gotv is their sister product but they are yet to reply.
Back to the question the StarTimes subscribers are asking, what technical hindrance is there that Dstv, Zuku, and StarTimes cannot just offer Free To Air without purchasing a new decoder (StarTimes) or add some one time payment (Gotv)? Personally I have been wondering, what is unique with KBC that makes it available for free that is lacking in NTV, KTN, Citizen and all the other local channels? Someone with technical background on how these Pay TV providers transmit their programmes to enlighten me. Otherwise I do think that the Pay TV are in some type of scam to reap money from Kenyans in the disguise of digital migration. CCK and Consumer Federation are not helping either.