Tata Sky’s much awaited Android set-top-box, Tata Sky Binge+, is all set to become available in the coming 2-3 weeks as a dealer has leaked the technician’s reference guide for installing the service.
The manual, leaked on social media, confirms what has already been reported — it will be built on top of Android TV software and will support for 4K output.
In other words, the product will be quite similar to competing devices from rivals like Airtel Digital (Airtel Xstream) and Dish TV (Dish Smart Hub), but with key differences in the pricing strategy.
The Android box, referred to as Prithvi in the training manual, will be manufactured by Technicolor and will come with support for 4K video as well as the HEVC video software, which is twice as efficient as the current MP4 standard.
The installation manual contains instructions on not just how to install the product, also on how to introduce and demonstrate it.
“Tata Sky Binge+ Android Set Top Box combines the benefits of DTH and OTT [apps], enabling the subscriber to watch both linear channels broadcast via satellite and OTT content via the internet from popular apps on a single screen,” says the training manual, giving dealers an idea of how to market the box to the consumer.
The manual points out that the biggest advantage of Binge+ box, compared to the existing Binge platform, is that the customer does not need to use three remote controllers any longer.
At present, Tata Sky’s Binge platform requires the subscriber to use three remote controllers — one for a smart stick that supplies the app-based content, one for Tata Sky’s old satellite set top box (to change channels and so on) and one to change the TV’s input from one HDMI source to another when switching between the two.
In comparison, the new Binge+ box requires the subscriber to use only one remote for switching between linear TV and internet videos.
“The subscriber benefits from the ease of choosing and switching between broadcast and OTT app on the same set top box,” the manual points out.
Of course, this facility is also available on other Android set-top-boxes from Tata Sky’s rivals, such as the Airtel Xstream box, Dish Smart Hub, Jio Box and D2h Smart Connect.
These boxes from DTH players like Tata Sky, Airtel Digital, Dish TV and D2h offer two key advantages compared to using a combination of a smart TV and a traditional set top box.
The first advantage, as discussed, is that you don’t need to carry multiple remote controllers around.
Using a traditional set-top-box in combination with a smart TV or a third-party Android box or stick will require the user to carry at least two remote controllers — one for the smart TV and another for the set-top-box. In case one is going for a third party Android box, such as the Mi Box or Fire Stick, the user needs to keep all three remote controllers handy.
The second advantage of going with a DTH operator’s smart box is that of price.
If you purchase a smart TV or smart box to watch app content, you will end up spending about Rs 500-700 per month on subscription charges to various apps, even if you exclude Netflix. Including Netflix, they will come to Rs 800-1000 levels.
In comparison, if you purchase the Binge+ box, you get access to these apps (excluding Netflix) at just Rs 249 per month.
In addition, these DTH and cable players also bundle a free in-house content app to anyone who purchase their box..
For example, Airtel Xstream app — which comes with a large collection of Hollywood and Bollywood movies as well as other TV content — is free for anyone who uses an Airtel Digital DTH connection. So too is Jio Cinema for most Jio broadband users.
If the customer is not very picky about the choice and selection of content, he or she can easily make do with the in-house app of the provider to watch the occasional movie or TV series.
Some of these providers have even offer content from Eros, Zee Entertainment and Sun TV on their in-house apps.
Zee5 content, for example, is available on Airtel Xstream and Airtel TV apps, which are accessible without any extra cost for Airtel DTH users.
Tata Sky too has an in-house app called Tata Sky Mobile which contains thousands of movies and TV shows, in addition to live TV channels.
This app too is available free of charge to all Tata Sky DTH customers for viewing on their mobile phones, on the web and on the Binge/Binge+ devices.
As such, purchasing an Android box from DTH and cable providers is likely to prove to be a more economical option than purchasing a smart TV or an Android box from the market and subscribing to various apps separately.
Some smart TV vendors, such as Xiaomi, also offer what Tata Sky, Airtel Digital and Dish TV do — and have entered into deals with app providers like Zee and Eros Entertainment to provide cheap or discounted access to their content on their smart TVs.
In addition to app content, Tata Sky Binge+ also offers catch up TV for 7 days. The channels activated by the subscriber as a part of his or her DTH package are also available for rewind and catch-up on the Binge+ box. This is a unique feature that is not available on most of the competing products.
BINGE+ vs OTHERS
However, the biggest differentiator for Tata Sky’s box compared to the others is in the pricing and plans.
While apps such as Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Sun Nxt, Zee5, Eros Now and Hungama are also available on other platforms, here, they are all bundled into one subscription plan.
The monthly subscription for the Binge+ box is likely to be the same as that of the Binge smart stick, or Rs 249 per month.
This may be a weak point as far as Tata Sky’s box is concerned, as competing products like Airtel Digital Android TV box come with zero monthly charge if the user subscribes to a DTH plan.
In other words, an Airtel Digital user can activate a 200-rupee DTH plan on his Android TV box, and get access to Airtel’s in-house app content free of charge.
However, in case of Tata Sky, the Binge device has a separate monthly charge of Rs 249, on top of the DTH subscription charge.
So, a customer who is subscribed to a 200-rupee DTH plan will end up paying Rs 450 per month if he upgrades to a Binge+ Android box.
In comparison, an Airtel Digital user can continue to pay Rs 200 per month even after migrating to the Android TV box.
However, the key difference between Binge+ and other boxes is that a Binge+ user automatically gets free access to content from Hotstar, Zee3, Sun Nxt, Eros and so on in return for the monthly charge of Rs 249.
Tata Sky’s product, therefore, will make more sense to someone who wants to watch content from all the major OTT apps such as Hotstar, Amazon Prime video and so on, while boxes from the likes of Airtel Digital and Dish TV will make far more sense for those who want to pick and choose the apps they want to activate, or want the option of turning off expensive app subscriptions and depend purely on in-house apps of Airtel, Dish TV etc for watching on-demand content.
Finally, there’s also the question of initial cost.
Players like Airtel Digital and Dish TV have two tiers of pricing. Existing DTH subscribers can get their Android boxes for an initial payment of around Rs 2,500, while non-subscribers have to pay the full cost of the box, which comes to around Rs 4,000.
Tata Sky too is likely to keep the initial charges low, as the subscriber also has to pay an extra Rs 250 per month to keep using the Android set top box.
The exact pricing details are likely to be revealed in the coming 2-3 weeks as the box is officially unveiled.