We already know how awesome the Explora decoder is. After all, at every advertising break no matter what channel you are watching there is this dude telling you about the magnificence of the new decoder:
- DStv Catchup: how you can watch the latest Series episodes and sporting event highlights on demand.
- How you can watch two channels at the same time.
- How you will have more space to record your TV shows.
- Intuitive interface that is more beautiful than the depressing yellow and white of previous decoders.
- You can create multiple favourite lists which you can even go on to colour code.
- Box Office to rent the latest movies on demand and watch them on your decoder.
- HD viewing
What they conveniently fail to emphasise or mention at altogether is:
- DStv catchup is only available to premium subscribers.
- You will need another decoder to watch two channels at the same time (Extra-view) and you will be charged an extra fee to be able to access this service.
- This fee should also be paid if you want to record any material.
- Box Office (for reasons I am still to understand) is only available to premium subscribers.
- And oh, did I tell you most of these services are not available to Zimbabwean subscribers.
- It is cheaper to buy the decoder from third party vendors than from official Multichoice agents. Sometimes there is even a $100 price difference!
- You cannot watch free to air channels on the PVR and Explora decoders.
Whilst it is easy to avoid the high priced decoders by buying from third parties, it is the fact that you cannot view FTA channels on the PVR and Explora decoders that I find disappointing.
This would not have been an issue a year ago when the Wiztech and Philibao decoders were still popular as people sought to watch SABC channels on them. When the good folks at Sentech decided to flip the switch overnight the appeal of owning these devices decreased overnight.
Suddenly people were flocking to buy DStv decoders. Although, I am told, it is still possible to view channels like God TV (my favourite Christian channel) and Ezekiel TV on old decoders it is not possible to do this on the PVR/Explora decoder.
How to access your favourite FTA channels
- Install another dish to use with your old FTA decoder. You can buy the so-called half-set (dish,LNB and cable) in town for around $20. A dual LNB will not help you since the new decoders require you to have one in order for them to work properly. Using this sort of setup will result in clutter as your PlayStation, DVD, home theatre, computer and decoders all fight for space in front of you.
- You can install an Extra -view setup using one of your old DStv decoders and install your FTA channels using the old codes and tricks. As an added bonus you can also view all the DStv channels on the first decoder on a second TV which will greatly reduce your remote wrestling fights. Plus you will be spared all those insufferable Idols and Big Brother Episodes.
- If you have a fast internet connection you can stream your Christian channel instead. This will require you to setup an under the TV computer and assumes that the channel you want to watch has an online stream. For example God TV can be viewed online here.
The new Multichoice decoder might be based on Linux but it is greatly disappointing that viewers are not able to view FTA channels on it. This forces subscribers to make less than ideal set ups or not to view the channels altogether. This threatens the FTA channels ecosystem with channels being either forced off air or to join Multichoice officially. The latter can be deemed anti-competitive behaviour.
I also understand the complex licencing requirements that the company has to wade through every-time that they introduce a new service but it is also disheartening to see how many perks our South African counterparts get to enjoy for essentially the same price as us.
We actually pay more for less because the company refuses to use a floating exchange rate to charge for its services. The PVR 2P decoder which is sold for R999 in South Africa (which is about $95) is being sold by official Multichoice agents for around $220! If this is not a rip-off then I do not know what is.
There is always something to praise and complain about when it comes to Multichoice but I think the issues of uniform service across the continent, fair pricing (the Rand has been weak for so long now) and the inability to access free to air channels are issues that are in urgent need of address.
Image Credit: Spice4life.co.za