Television viewers in box seat
Around 176,000 households are yet to change to the new digital TV service and with the launch of the Igloo prepay TV service last week, they have a growing choice of digital TV providers.
The old analogue broadcasts have already been discontinued in Hawke's Bay and the West Coast of the South Island and will be turned off in the rest of the South Island and Lower North Island and East Cape on April 28, followed by the upper North Island on December 1 next year.
The services offered by the three main digital providers - Freeview, Sky and Igloo - vary widely, as do the costs of using them, so consumers will have plenty to consider before making the switch.
If you decide to go with Freeview or Igloo you will need a UHF TV aerial and standard versions of these can be bought for about $100.
However, some people who live in areas with poor reception may need to install a more expensive Freeview satellite dish.
If you aren't comfortable with the idea of clambering about the roof and running cables back to your television, you will need to get a professional installer to do it for you.
This is a particularly good idea if you live in an area with poor reception because an installer will be able to advise on the type of aerial that will get the best results and make sure it is working properly.
Installation costs will depend on the location and how difficult the job is, but most installers are happy to give an estimate over the phone.
FREEVIEW People who choose Freeview will be able to watch the main free-to-air channels, TV One, TV2, TV3, Four, Maori TV, Prime, plus 17 regional and special interest channels such as Trackside, Parliament TV and The Shopping Channel and will also be able to listen to Radio New Zealand's National and Concert programmes through their television as well as the George FM and Base FM stations.
With Freeview it won't cost anything to watch these channels (no joining cost or monthly fees), but viewers will need either a Freeview set-top box, which plugs into the back of the telly, or one of the newer televisions which already have Freeview installed.
Freeview set-top boxes are available for about $90 but prices can vary depending on the model and supplier so it may pay to shop around for the best deal.
However, many new televisions come with Freeview receivers installed. So if you are thinking of upgrading to a new television, make sure you buy one with Freeview and all you'll need to do is make sure you have a UHF aerial and you'll be good to go.
Freeview also offers a more advanced service called MyFreeview, which allows viewers to record TV shows, organise recording in advance (such as automatic recording of an entire TV series) and even pause live TV broadcasts and resume watching them later.
This is also free to use, but you will need a more expensive set-top box, with prices for these starting about $400.
There is also an increasing trend towards connecting televisions to the internet.
People who have a MyFreeview set-top box and connect it to the the internet will be able to use it to access the movies and television shows provided by Australian provider Quickflix. This is a pay-per-view service with no long-term contracts.
People can prepay $14.99 which will give them access to the Quickflix movie and television archive for a month at a time, while more recent movie releases are available on demand for $6.99.
IGLOO Igloo is the new pay television service launched last week. To access it you will need an Igloo set-top box, which costs $199, and a UHF aerial.
This will allow you to watch the main free-to-air channels - TV One, TV2, TV3, Four, Prime, Maori TV and 14 regional television or special interest channels, and listen to Radio New Zealand and Base FM radio programmes through your television.
You will not have to pay to access any of these channels.
On top of this, Igloo will provide access to 11 pay channels - UKTV, National Geographic, Comedy Central, Vibe, BBC Knowledge, Food TV, Animal Planet, MTV, BBC World News, TVNZ Heartland and Kidzone24.
It will cost $24.99 to have access to these for 30 days, but you will not be locked into a long-term contract, you just buy 30-day access packs whenever you want them.
You can also access pay-per-view movies, programmes and special events on a one-off basis through Igloo. Television episodes are priced from $1.99 and movies are priced from $4 to $6.99.
You can also watch various live sporting events on a pay-per-view basis through Igloo, and prices for these vary widely.
Next Sunday's Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix soccer match is $14.95 and the Fight for Life boxing tournament on Saturday night is $39.95.
SKY TV To access Sky TV you will need a Sky set-top box and satellite dish, but you don't buy these yourself. When you subscribe to Sky, the company supplies and installs them and continues to own them.
The cost of accessing the service will depend on the type of package you buy.
The basic Sky package costs $46.12 a month for a 12-month contract, and you can add another $2.66 a month if you want the Skywatch magazine.
This will give you access to 55 channels, including the main free-to-air channels, TV One, TV2, TV3, Four, Prime, Maori TV, and various special interest channels such as MTV, Living, National Geographic, and Animal Planet.
On top of these you pick and choose various additional packages depending on your interests, which you pay extra for.
Sports packages cost $26.34 to $35.15 a month, while movie packages are priced from $11.18 to $31.88 a month.
You can also upgrade your set-top box to a MySky decoder, which allows you to pause live television and preprogamme the recording of individual episodes or series of programmes.
A MySky decoder can store about 60 hours of recorded programmes.
To get one installed, you can either pay an upfront fee of $599 with no extra monthly costs, or an upfront fee of $99 and an extra monthly fee of $15.
There is also an option of upgrading that to MySky+ decoder, which can store about 250 hours of recorded programmes. To have one of these installed you can either pay an upfront fee of $649 or an upfront fee of $99 plus an additional $20 a month.
Sky also has various special offers available on its packages from time to time, so if you are thinking of subscribing, it might pay to keep an eye on these.
- Sunday Star Times