While digital service providers in Pakistan have steadily grown in number, there still exist a large amount of the population that relies on analog TV.
Of the two types of services, analog is obviously the older (and rather outdated one) while digital TV is state of the art and comes with a wide array of features. However, its penetration is still low due to the high cost associated with it as well as general availability.
Rising above the ranks and aiming to revolutionize the way we watch TV is tvnation. They offer digital TV services which offer consumers a wide variety of local and international content.
The said content is in real HD (unless otherwise not available) and is not downscaled in any way. This gives viewers the ultimate experience of watching actual HD content just the way it is meant to be. What makes their digital TV service more interesting is that it comes with an interactive, and content-rich Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) that allows you to view daily program listings. You can also use the EPG to schedule your favorite program for recording or book a reminder for the same to watch it when it airs.
TVNation was kind enough to extend us an invitation to their head office in Karachi to show us their latest HD Set-Top-Box and gave us a tour of what customers can expect.
TVNation has two products: TVNation HD and TVNation NextGeneration (NXG).
NXG is yet to launch while the TVNationHD is already available for consumers. Today we’ll be taking a look at what you get inside the box, some of its features and pricing.
Open up the simple box and you get the following items:
- tvnationHD set-top-box
- Remote control
- HDMI cable
- User guide (in Urdu and English both)
- AV cables
- Spare batteries
- Power adapter
Moving on to the set-top-box itself, on the front you get TVNation branding, a power button, and next/previous channel buttons. The rest of the functions are meant to be controlled by the provided remote control, apparently.
Move on to the back and you will find your usual ports including a USB port, the function of which we’ll discuss later on.
The remote is a standard affair.
After the unboxing, we hooked up the set-top-box with the TV, turned it on and went through the initial set up.
Boot-up usually takes 7-10 seconds during which the box checks for updates
Let’s move on to the actual service and features that tvnation promises and see what sets it apart from the rest of the competition.
1. 200+ Channels
TVNation claims to provide consumers with 200+ channels and during our testing, almost all of the channels were available and working just fine. Most of the content was in HD but still, there were some channels which weren’t available in HD and they were being shown in standard definition (SD).
If for some reason you can’t tell the difference between what channel is HD or not, you can just press the Info button on the remote to view the details of the channel.
You can see in the image below that a little pop-up at the bottom of the screen shows basic channel info such as the channel name, aspect ratio it is being played at and the resolution.
The channel info bar also shows, in terms of percentage, how much the current program you’re watching has elapsed and also the next two programs that will air, which we will also discuss later on. The date and time are also displayed in the same bar.
Press on the “Info” button on the remote once more and it will show you the synopsis/plot of whatever program you are currently watching.
One of the many features it offers is the ability to categorize channels. Now, that may not sound exciting but the way tvnation does it makes it rather smart.
First off, you have an all channels list which shows all the channels you have at your disposal. Apart from that, you have pre-defined categories such as News (split into local and international), Entertainment (also split), Sports, Kids etc.
If you choose a channel from any of these categories and try to change the channel, it will only move between channels in that category instead of cycling through all the channels. So, for instance, if you are in the mood to watch some sports and take your mind off the news, you can just choose any channel from the sports category and if you try changing channels, you’ll only get more sports channel instead of being annoyed by the news.
Furthermore, users also have the option to create a list of channels of their own. It works the same way as the predefined categories when it comes to switching channels so you have an even more customized experience tailored to your needs.
3. Electronic Program Guide (EPG)
TVNation promise to deliver the full digital experience to the users which brings me to the next most important feature of the set-top-box, the electronic program guide.
EPG is usually bundled with digital set-top-boxes. It shows the list of current and scheduled programs of all the channels you have available and also a short summary of each program as well. Remember the synopsis we talked about above? That was part of the EPG.
To access the whole thing, all you have to do is press the “EPG” button on your remote and the following screen will come up.
Here the screen will be split into two panels. The top one shows the current program that you are watching and also the time it airs for. You also get a little summary of the program as well.
On the bottom panel you have the channels listed vertically and in front of them, split by time, are the upcoming shows that will air. You can select any of the program and press on “Info” on the remote and it will show the synopsis of that program.
EPG also allows you to record a program, which we’ll discuss later on.
Press the EPG button again once you have highlighted any of the channels and the screen changes to show you the detailed view of upcoming programs for that particular channel.
You can also set reminders for a particular show that you want to watch. So when you’re watching another show and the other program starts airing on another channel, a pop up comes up asking you whether you want to switch or not to that other program. You can either cancel it or select “Yes” and if there’s no response for a while, it will automatically changes the channel for you.
Another major feature of tvnationHD is the ability to record programs and not only that but also schedule recording for later. This feature is quite similar to what PTCL offers with its SmartTV set-top box.
To get started with recording, firstly you should have a USB attached to the set-top-box with enough storage to record complete programs in HD.
Once that is done, open up the EPG as discussed earlier. You can either start recording the current program or schedule the recording for a program that will air later. For now, let’s focus on recording a program that is currently being aired.
Once you have the EPG open, press the red button on the remote which indicates “REC”. A message box shows up, confirming that recording has started.
You can record up to 2 hours at a time or until you run out of storage. To stop the recording, simply press the REC button once again and it will ask for confirmation before saving.
You can then head on over the PVR menu on your set-top-box and playback the recording that you just saved.
As mentioned above, you can also schedule the recording. To do that simply open the EPG and select a show that is yet to air. Once selected, press the REC button and the program thumbnail will turn orange, indicating that all is set and it will instantly start recording when the program starts to air.
From a content security point of view, the recording on the USB will remain safe and can’t be used for piracy. If you use the USB on your laptop, you won’t be able to play the recorded shows thanks to encryption. The shows can only be played back on the set-top-box. If you try to use the USB on another tvnationHD set-top-box, it won’t playback the recording over there either.
5. Learning Remote
Doesn’t it get annoying when there are too many remotes lying around your home and you have to use separate remotes for everything such as your TV, set-top-box or any other component as well? It looks like the people working at tvnation had to face the same issues but thankfully they have also come up with a solution and it comes in the form of “Learning Remote”.
How it works is the remote you get with the tvnationHD has a separate group of buttons at the top of the remote that is labeled as TV Control. The buttons include our most used functions such as the power button, Volume +/-, Channel +/- etc.
What the feature actually does is let you control the TV and your set-top-box directly from a single remote instead of trying to use two remotes at the same time.
All you have to do is configure the remote according to the instructions shown on the back side of the remote and it will save those settings.
In our testing, the learning remote feature worked perfectly and it was a relief to know that the people using tvnationHD will not have to fumble around looking for remotes.
As of this moment, tvnation’s digital TV services are available in major cities in the country through its partner, StormFiber
We asked about tvnation’s plans for expanding their services in the future, they said they have plans to offer services all over Pakistan. Their end goal is to provide these digital services and features we just discussed above to each and every household in Pakistan at an affordable rate.
Of course, expanding takes time and right now they have plans for some major cities such as Multan, Quetta etc.
Expanding also means finding new partners to join tvnation which is precisely what they are looking for right now. StormFiber is one of the partners that provide these services in Peshawar and Karachi for now.
What tvnation promises to deliver is quality from end-to-end, starting from satellite acquisition all the way to the customer’s home. For this, partners are scrutinized before being brought on board. Since tvnation delivers true HD, they need to know beforehand if the potential partner has enough equipment to provide the quality they promise.
TVNation offers an opportunity to potential partners to connect with them and to provide these services to the customers. This will enable the partners to provide quality services to their customers which will in return secure their customers.
What we mean by “secure” is that if one day PEMRA decides to issue a notice to completely shut down analog TV and switch on over to digital, those service providers that were not prepared for such a move will eventually lose customers. Partnering up with TVNation eliminates the possibility of such a scenario. You can reach out to TVNation representatives at [email protected] to become a TVNation partner.