Thursday, March 10, 2016

'THE BIG SWITCH-OFF': StarSat switching off black TopTV decoder from the end of this month; subscribers urged to swop their old decoder out for free.

StarSat subscribers using TopTV decoders will lose their viewing from the end of this month when these black boxes are switched off, with subscribers who have to upgrade and migrate to the new StarSat branded decoders if they want to continue receiving channels.

These original black TopTV decoders will no longer work properly after the end of March StarSat tells TVwithThinus, with subscribers who will have to swop decoders or lose their TV channels in what the pay-TV service calls "The Big Switch-Off".

The past few months the Woodmead-based On Digital Media (ODM) and StarTimes Media South Africa has been on a drive to rid the market from the original black TopTV decoders that were introduced in May 2010 when ODM launched TopTV as South Africa's second satellite pay-TV service.

When China's StarTimes can onboard to bail-out the struggling pay-TV-operator in business rescue, the new, HD-enabled and StarSat branded white decoders manufactured in China, were introduced to South Africa in November 2013 as part of a process to move away from the damaged "TopTV" brand.

TopTV subscribers, now StarSat subscribers, could however continue to use the original black decoders.

In August 2015 ODM started a free "decoder exchange programme" in a subsidised campaign to get the black decoders out of the market.

As part of the soft phase-out approach the past seven months, StarSat subscribers could turn in their "old" TopTV branded black decoders and  switch to the white boxes for free by taking their old set-top boxes to certain retail stores and pay R99 for which they got a R99 credit on their StarSat account.

Now as part of a hard-swap, StarSat says all old decoders must be replaced and that subscribers who don't switch by the end of this month will see their service start to go dark.

"The Big Switch-Off starts on 1 April," StarSat tells TVwithThinus. Three TV channels will go dark at a time, weekly, from 1 April for subscribers with the black TopTV boxes. "By 30 April all channels will be cut off and no longer be available on the old black decoder".

StarSat says that "from 30 April, the old standard definition (SD) black TopTV decoders will no longer be in use as the software will be outdated and subscribers have to swop to get a new HD decoder for free."

"Subscribers need to bring their TopTV smartcard to their nearest customer experience centre to receive their new free HD decoder," says StarSat.

"To make the process more accessible, subscribers can call our call centre on 0860 867 827, or SMS the word 'swop' to 40003 and we will arrange to have their new HD decoder couriered to them nationwide. If they swop before 30 April they get one month's subscription for free".

Since its introduction, StarSat subscribers however continue to complain about the new decoder. The design and functionality of the decoder's electronic programme guide (EPG) is worse compared to the black box.

StarSat subscribers also continue to say that they struggle with channel reset and channel signal issues, that the box has poor functionality, and that even though they want one, it's out of stock at some places.

StarSat subscribers continue to say that once they switch to and use the new decoder, it loses signal reception and that they constantly have to try and "reset" the box due to unexplained signal loss issues.