Older DStv decoders near lifecycle end

Bonnie Tubbs
By Bonnie Tubbs
Johannesburg, 30 Jan 2015
The DStv Explora and DStv HD decoder are the only two boxes that are future-proofed and capable of getting new features.
The DStv Explora and DStv HD decoder are the only two boxes that are future-proofed and capable of getting new features.

MultiChoice has outlined options for customers with older decoders - seven of which have reached the end of their lifecycle and are no longer reparable - as the company seeks to encourage its DStv customers to upgrade to its latest box, the Explora.

Launched in the third quarter of 2013, MultiChoice's flagship Explora went online in November last year - a first for the company, which has over 95% of the South African pay-TV market. The data pipe expands the pool of content premium customers previously had on DStv Catch Up by 300 titles, says the operator.

That same month, the company sent correspondence to customers with older decoders (prior to the Explora and its predecessor the single view DStv HD decoder) informing them that, while their devices would still work, they would not be able to facilitate new services and channels, and some of the older ones would experience freeze-ups.

Decoder sets

"Your decoder will go through various lifecycles, starting with when they're new and fully capable, to when they're nearing time for replacement," says MultiChoice.

The company divides its older decoders into two groups: old but reparable, and old and irreparable. The former category, although no longer manufactured, can still be repaired for the time being.

The latter category (category three by the company's definition) comprises decoders that "just can't cope" as they do not have the processing power and memory to deal with new services. "It means your viewing will be impacted as you won't be able to get some of our channels or you'll experience freeze-ups," says MultiChoice.

MultiChoice COO Mark Rayner says the company is encouraging customers to upgrade to the Explora, in order to benefit from updates and new features and channels.

To facilitate upgrades to the Explora, MultiChoice recently introduced a trade-in option, whereby customers can bring in their older decoders for a discount on a new one. The trade-in programme gives customers up to R300 off on an Explora (from R1 999 to R1 699) and R50 on a single view decoder (from R499 or to R449).

MultiChoice also recently introduced an Explora payment plan, which allows customers to get the new decoder and pay it off over 24 months, for R99 per month and, in November, introduced a premium subscriber Explora bundle for R799 per month (on a 24-month contract). This includes the decoder, premium subscription and access fee.

DStv decoder lifecycle:

Category one decoders (new): DStv Explora andn DStv HD decoder.
Category two decoders (old, but reparable): HD PVR 2U, HD PVR 2P, 1132/3U/Zappa, HD PVR 4 Tuner (Pace), 1131 and 1110.
Category three decoders (old and irreparable): HD PVR 4 Tuner (UEC), SD PVR, Dual View, 910/933, 990, 720/720i, 642/645/660.

Addressing concerns some customers had following last year's correspondence that they were being forced into making a change sooner than they had to, Rayner says the company merely found it prudent to advise customers that some of the decoders could no longer be repaired, while all but the latest two would not benefit from all of the DStv features and services available.

"As with laptops and cellphones, technology ages. The addition of over-the-top functionality is important in our mind and the older decoders won't have that. There is a lot of innovation happening in the TV world right now and the best foot we can put forward is with the Explora, so we would like as many customers as possible on this [platform]."

Cutting the wait

Coming soon to the Explora - which Rayner says still has a long road ahead of it - is "progressive downloading".

Rayner explains this will allow connected customers to watch content as it downloads, rather than having to wait for a movie (for instance) to finish downloading completely before viewing - similar to how YouTube and Apple TV work.

Regarding the company's Box Office offering - which is currently a limited subscription service on decoders' hard drives - he says there is no Box Office function to supplement Catch Up Plus - part of MultiChoice's Internet offering - "yet".