The A La Carte Option

I have what is called a “Mega HD” pack subscribed to on my DTH service at home. This brings to me a total of 207 channels at a price of Rs. 6000 ($120) a year including 10 HD channels, STB based PVR and a VOD service that could be ordered through their self-care portal.

The Program Line up
Recently, I was trying to balance my attention between a breaking news, an animal related documentary, a sporting event and a program to pay homage to a recently departed octogenarian personality of Bollywood – surfing across channels, to put it mildly. With only one last channel on recall on my remote, one can imagine what it takes to surf across 4 channels spread across the on-air program line-up.

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Started meditating…

Why are the channels that I need so far apart? That was because the programs were designed so that same genre channels come together.

Should they come together? What is the probability of a user surfing across same genre channels vis-a-vis multi-genre surfing? I wouldn’t know! But the operator might; and has probably arranged them based on this intelligence already.

I started exploring the customisation opportunities I had, and realised that I could set “Favourite” channels in the order of my choice!

Favourite Channels
Unfortunately, there was a limit to the number of favourite channels – I can set only 50 channels.

When I went through my channel list, I realised that around 67 channels of the 207 is what I need. this includes those channels that I watch for 15 min/day to those watched for 15 min/week, those that my teenaged son watches 2 hours a day and my wife watches 15 min every blue-moon (women don’t make good couch potatoes).

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So, the problem can only be solved by removing unwanted channels from the line up. This translated into “let us not pay for unwanted channels” in my wife’s ears when transmitted through the strange-medium of man-woman interface 😦

Unwanted channels
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So it was that one Sunday, I was tasked with moving from my “Mega HD” Plan to an a la carte plan.

With a piece of paper and a pen went to the home page of the service provider to identify my 67 channels and to calculate the price for my preferred line-up of wanted channels.

The total came to Rs. 7200 annual! The sports channels by themselves cost Rs. 3000+!

So, for an a la carte plan to work for me, I should not subscribe on an annual basis, rather when I think I need them – For e.g. Before grand slam tennis tournaments, the Indian Premier League cricket, Football, Grand Prix etc., I should subscribe to the specific channels, and only for the period of the tournament.

Self-care for a la carte
Determined that I shall save money, I searched all over their self-care portal to find out the place where I could setup my immediate choice for the next one month, but couldn’t find the option on the page!

Not giving up, I called up their call-centre, went through their IVR and queue to reach an operator and enquirer about how to get the a la carte settings.

I was told that I can do this ONLY over a phone call and not online! Every time, I have to go through a phone call to change!
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The Conclusions

  • No point shifting to a la carte without an easier self-care option being available than calling up a customer care agent.
  • Operators have a vested interest in not allowing easier self-care and only fear of competition induced churn will make them play fair.
  • Competition will not induce churn unless the process of change is easier and equipment standardised – not requiring to change antenna, it’s azimuth, STB but just a change of subscriber module (like SIM in mobile)
  • Should explore usage based billing for live TV as a concept, at work 🙂
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