Following TRAI’s rule for DTH providers and cable operators, which came into effect on February 1 2019, subscribers have the option to pay only for channels they want to watch. But that many not necessarily translate into cheaper cable bills. A report by CRISIL shows that monthly TV bill for users who opt for the top 10 channels in addition to free-to-air channels will go up by 25 per cent.
Thanks to streaming services, some of which charge as low as Rs 999 per year for premium subscription, users can enjoy most channels at a lower monthly cost. For instance, Hotstar gives access to Star network channels like ‘Life Ok’, ‘Star Plus’, etc as well as HBO. SonyLIV for Sony TV channels and Voot, which is a free service with content from across channels like Colors, MTV, etc. Zee5 is another such option. But is it a better idea to skip cable and go for streaming services when it comes to pricing? We find out.
Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Sony Liv, Voot, Zee5 pricing
Assuming one is looking to have channels from all major broadcasters including Star Network, Viacom 18, Zee, etc, then investing in Google Chromecast or Amazon FireTV Stick is a good idea. The latest version of Chromecast will cost close to Rs 3,000, while FireTV Stick with Alexa voice remote is around Rs 4,000.
A TV with HDMI slot that supports Wi-Fi is needed for Chromecast and FireTV Stick to work. But just like set-top box for DTH, this is a one-time investment.
Now, let us calculate how much each streaming service will cost. Amazon Prime subscription and Hotstar cost the same per year: Rs 999, and are really value for money services, if you want access to premium content.
Hotstar gives users access to Star channels in addition to movies, shows, news from ABP News, Aaj Tak, shows from HBO, etc. Amazon Prime membership also comes with benefits such as one-day delivery, early access to deals on Amazon as well as bundled Amazon Music.
Netflix is among the most expensive streaming services in India starting at Rs 500 per month, while HD plan starts at Rs 650. The most expensive plan is Rs 800 for Netflix though it also supports UHD resolution or 4K streaming. However, if the focus is more on regional content and access to TV channels, then Netflix can be skipped.
SonyLiv, which includes channels from Sony Networks is Rs 499 per year. Users will get access to shows from Set, Sab as well as regional channels, movies, etc. Voot is a free video-on-demand service with access to Viacom 18’s channels such as Colors Infinity, MTV, News18, etc and can be accessed for free by logging in with Facebook or Google account. Zee5 has shows from ZeeTV and its all access pack will cost Rs 999 per year.
If one is to calculate cumulative subscription charges of these streaming services, then it would come to Rs 3,496 a year or around Rs 291 per month without Netflix. With Netflix HD subscription included, the cost comes close to Rs 941 per month
Tata Sky, Tata Sky Binge, DishTV, Airtel TV pricing
The DishNXT HD set-top box is priced at Rs 1,590. Tata Sky’s HD Digital set-top boxes are more expensive starting at Rs 1,699. Airtel TV’s HD box, which also includes one month pack of 150 channels is listed for Rs 769 as of now in Delhi/NCR, but this does not include NCF (Network Capacity Fee), installation and activation charges.
For DTH operators, DishTV’s Titanium HD pack, which has 285 channels is priced at Rs 617. It includes most Star, Network, Zee, and Viacom18’s channels so the pack is for those who do not have specific preferences and do not want to miss out on anything. Sports channels are included in this pack. With NCF, GST, etc, the total will be around Rs 729 and even lower (at around Rs 536) for SD resolution channels.
Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky’s monthly HD pack with channels from most major broadcasters such as Star, Zee, Viacom18, Sony, etc included will cost somewhere around Rs 800, which is similar to DishTV.
Let’s not forget Tata Sky Binge
Tata Sky also has its Binge service, which gives users access to digital content from multiple apps such as Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Sun Nxt, Eros Now, Hungama Play at Rs 249 per month. This is for those who already have a Tata Sky connection.
This service gives an Amazon FireTV stick bundled for free. Another advantage is access to more than 5,000 shows and movies from Tata Sky’s VOD library as well as the ability to watch TV shows of the past seven days.
Tata Sky Binge gives access to a number of streaming services. There’s Amazon Prime Video subscription, which is free only for the first three months. It also includes premium subscription of Hotstar, Eros Now, Hungama Play and Sun Nxt.
At around Rs 332 per month (with Amazon Prime’s Rs 999 per year included), Binge is a solid deal, though you will have to also keep paying for your regular Tata Sky connection. Adding Zee5, Netflix, Sony Liv, and Voot to the mix will set you back by Rs 1,106. Without Netflix HD standard subscription, the cost will be Rs 456 and is definitely one of the best options to consider.
So, is it time to give up DTH and cable TV?
It all boils down to personal preferences. For sports fans, Hotstar has all live matches covered, and there’s SonyLiv as well. Both services are very cheap for a monthly basis, especially if you go for the one year fee. Both will give you access to content from Sab, Star Plus, etc, which means traditional TV is covered as well.
Amazon Prime is excellent for originals, regional movies, new Hollywood movies. Netflix has some of the best original content out there, but it might not be something you watch everyday. The combined monthly bill of streaming services might appear, but remember they also offer the choice of video-on-demand plus a library of movies and shows, some of which may not even be available regular television channels.
The key factor is that with so many streaming services, even if you give up cable and DTH, you are unlikely to miss your most important shows. Of course, all these services need good, stable broadband internet and WiFi.
But if you are someone who likes to stick to TV schedules to watch shows and movies, then perhaps it is not time to give up the DTH connection just yet. If you do not have access to high-speed, stable WiFi, then depending only on these services would not be a good idea.