DStv subscribers who live in blocks of flats or residential complexes - and don't have their own satellite dishes - could find themselves without access to all Multichoice’s much-hyped new offerings on October 1, when it switches over to its new satellite.
The migration to the new IS20 satellite will allow the pay TV station to expand its high definition (HD) offerings by seven channels to 14 - including five movie channels - as well as add six new standard definition (SD) channels.
When Multichoice’s PR people first started hinting at big changes to come, and the need to get consumers on-side, I suspected that whatever enhancements were on the way would come with either increased subscription fees or the loss of something prized - the drama over the demise of the Dish magazine TV listings is still very fresh, after all.
It turns out MultiChoice is offering more choice at the same price - for now - but the downside is that those who aren’t paying attention to the announcements in the coming weeks will wake up to a very unfamiliar DStv landscape on Monday, October 1.
That’s because Multichoice would have moved the channels about, grouping them in themes, such as movies, and giving them new channel numbers.
Apparently many subscribers are totally resistant to any changes which affect their TV watching habits, so the company is bracing itself for complaints from confused, frustrated subscribers.
But for those who live in what Multichoice terms “multi-unit dwellings” - blocks of flats or residential complexes which have a single cable distribution system - the frustration factor could be far higher: they could be cut off from all the new content completely.
Because, as the company’s chief technology officer Gerdus van Eerden explains, most single cable distribution systems lack the capacity for the new satellite’s increased offerings.
“And unless the body corporates with single cable systems get an installer in to expand the capacity of their system by October 1, the occupants are going to lose out,” he said.
MultiChoice has for some time advised installers not to instal single cable distribution systems in residential blocks for this reason, van Eerden said. "We strongly recommend
five-cable systems which don't require ongoing upgrading when new channels and services are offered."
Despite this, some installers have imported the single cable systems and actively marketed them to complexes and blocks, which don’t know any better,” he said.
MultiChoice has got in touch with installers and written to “all body corporates listed on the system” to ensure that they are informed of the changes required to receive the new channels and services.
As for the cost of this upgrading - which will no doubt be passed on to affected unit owners in the form of a levy - Van Eerden says it should only cost “a few thousand Rand” per complex, depending on the type of system currently installed.
“And the installers won’t have to gain access to individual units - their work will be restricted to the building’s service room, so there won’t be any disruption,” he says.
If you are DSTV subscriber living in a “multi unit” building, and you don't have your own dish, you may want to ask the body corporate questions about the building’s Multichoice distribution system and whether or not it has the capacity for the new offerings, or you could find yourself out in the cold, come October 1.
* A full list of the new channel numbers will be in the October Dish magazine. You can also SMS your email address to 32445 to get a PDF copy of the channel list.
Interestingly, while some channels are being moved around, the HD and SD channels will be on the same channel number from October 1. So, for example, both M-Net and M-Net HD will be on channel 101.