Advice for subscribers when terminating analog cable TV services

Published: 29 March 2018

Subscribers receiving digital cable TV offers should make conscious and well-informed decisions, particularly if they previously used analog television services – warns the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH). Factors to consider include the new price, number and range of channels on offer, the costs depending on the number of television sets used in the household and the possible decrease of related, existing package benefits. It is recommended to gather information on the offers of other service providers and it is good to know that the subscriber can request the termination of the contract without penalties, even in the case of a loyalty period.

The Authority is reminding the population of the importance of making well-informed consumer decisions due to the fact that as of 1 April, Magyar Telekom is terminating its analog cable TV services in 145 settlements, which effects tens of thousands of households, and is also phasing out several digital TV package services. As of the end of March, the service provider has terminated the relevant contracts, offering subscribers different, digital cable TV packages and so-called IPTV-services (Internet Protocol Television is a special digital television standard which enables the reception of multiple new channels as well as various convenience services – e.g. electronic program listings, recording options, optional audio and subtitle languages, child safety locks, VoD services, etc.). Subscribers have three main options to choose from if they wish to continue using television services: they can stay on with their current service provider and choose from the range of offers, transition to digital TV or IPTV services or decide to change to a rival service provider, if any at their place of residence. It is indicative of market trends that three-quarters of consumers contracting for television services through cable service providers are already using digital cable TV or IPTV subscriptions.

General regulatory advice for subscribers

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority pays particular attention to the procedural legality of television service providers during the digital transition process, including the spring activities of Magyar Telekom. Prior to the transition, it is recommended to become well-informed of the new schemes, comparing the conditions and general terms and condition (GTCs) of service providers. Additionally, subscribers should be informed of whether there are other service providers at their place of residence which better suit their needs (yet if there are none, consumers can also decide to refrain from employing such services). Subscribers can contact NMHH if they notice any infringements in the behavior of the service provider upon terminating their existing contract or concluding a new contract.

Although the digital transition offers several advantages, subscribers can also face disadvantages: for example, it is possible that after the transition, the same subscription fee only provides a more limited number of channels than in the previous package; or perhaps a higher fee is charged for the same number of channels if they wish to use multiple TV sets as they will need more media converters (set-top boxes), yet service providers usually only offer the first converter free of charge.

Multiple media converters might be required for the same household

If the subscriber has a modern TV set ­– with a so-called DVB-C tuner capable of receiving digital cable TV services – there is no need for a media converter for digital packages; the new digital channels can simply be configured on the device. In all cases, a separate technical device or devices are required for IPTV services – the set-top boxes for “normal” digital packages are not necessarily appropriate for this – yet both traditional and modern TV sets are suitable for their reception.

Traditional, picture tube-based TV sets require a media converter – an analog-digital converter – if the subscriber opts for a digital subscription. The device and the installation are covered by the service provider, yet in the case of certain technologies – e.g. wireless connections – they charge the subscriber a fee. Moreover, if the subscriber uses multiple TV sets and wishes to do so simultaneously in the future, all traditional TV sets – even modern TV sets used for IPTV services – require a separate media converter, yet only the first will be provided free of charge by Magyar Telekom. Additional converters are provided in exchange for a rental fee and recording options are also subject to a fee.

Subscriber who decide to use terrestrial services instead of cable TV services will still need a media converter, as pursuant to EU regulations, Hungary has made the transition to digital terrestrial services in 2013.

Factors to consider for those who decide to accept the offer of their current service provider

If the subscriber chooses an unencrypted digital cable tariff plan from the range of digital packages – according to the information on the website of Magyar Telekom – the monthly fee and range of channels will remain unchanged. However, in all cases it is worth carefully studying the conditions in order to ensure that the new package does not offer fewer channels after the transition compared to the previous analog service (which could change the consumer’s decision).

If the subscriber considers choosing an IPTV service and seeks to enjoy other services within the same package, the rate of the discount offered by Magyar Telekom in such cases will remain the same. If the consumer wishes to subscribe for IPTV as a separate service, it is worth considering the fact that the subscription fee will most likely be higher, while offering a wider range of channels and a higher quality service than before. The service provider does not insist on returning the previously used set-top boxes, yet they can be returned at any customer service point.

Factors to consider for those who decide to part with their current cable TV service provider

According to the current information of Magyar Telekom, they will terminate their subscriber agreements in all cases in the affected areas of service as of 31 March 2018. As the termination of the agreement was initiated by Magyar Telekom, subscribers will not have to repay the discounts received for their cable TV subscriptions – e.g. discounts due to loyalty periods – even if they no longer wish to stay on with the service provider. However, if they contracted for cable TV and one or more additional services in the same package and wish to retain the other elements of the package, due to the termination of the cable TV contract, the monthly fee discounts of said services can be reduced or lost. It is worth gaining detailed information on the matter through the service provider’s website.

On the general rights of telecommunications subscribers

More information on the general rights of telecommunications subscribers upon concluding or amending contracts can be found in previous NMHH notices, as well as on the website of Commissioner for Media and Communications.