As promised, here are my first impressions of Alma TV’s cable service here in Astana.
I’ll lay out the details first – we asked for and got the digital service (apparently not available in all areas just yet), didn’t get their internet service (not available in our location), and already had all the cabling in place for them. Our flat has already had a normal TV aerial wired in from the roof, as well as a large sat dish pointed at the Hotbird satellite. Not wanting to lose the satellite channels, we opted to use the standard aerial leads to feed the cable signal into the flat. As this lead is already split to feed a socket by the TV and also by the PC, this means we can watch two different cables channels at the same time. As long as one is Russian language – more on that later.
So, we went for the Prestige package, which basically means all of the channels except for three or four extra sports ones are included.
The channels that are mainly in English are as follows
Discovery Travel & Living
AXN Sci Fi Ru
Sci Fi Channel
Universal Channel Russia
National Geographic Wild
Cartoon Network / Turner Classic Movies
The following channels are either in Russian or another language, but might still be of interest…
Russian Extreme – different extreme or unusual sports
Drive – Motor related programs
Box – Fight channel, different disciplines covered
Play TV (seems to be KZ KZSport1)
MCM – French music channel
MTV Russia – You can probably guess from the name 🙂
A-One – Another Russian music channel
Mus TV – Another Russian music channel
Hit TV – Not sure yet about which country this channels originates from
Music Pervogo – Another Russian music channel
Mezzo – Classical/Jazz/Non-pop music channel
English audio doesn’t actually mean that all programs will have English speech. If you have a program that involves interviewing people from other countries, their speech is left intact – the English dubbing you’d get from watching the same channel in Britain is lost. Also adverts are mostly in Russian – no great loss there 🙂
Some channels have their EPG (Electronic Program Guide) two hours off – that is to say if you want to find out what is on now or next, you’ll need to check what the cable box thought was on two hours ago. Not all channels are like this, and I’m fairly certain it would be simple for Alma TV to correct this mistake.
The program names are mostly in Russian, but if you can at least read the Cyrillic alphabet, then you can just say the words out loud, and normally guess what it might be about. Channels that are specifically themed (SciFi, Discovery channels and sports for example) are normally easy to guess.
The interface menu for the cable STB (set top box) was originally in Russian, but can be changed to English. Our installers knew Russian wasn’t my first language, so they swapped the language for us (Menu, 1, Left until you see English, OK and then a few Exits), and also altered the relevant channels from Russian to English audio. Though not all of them, which is why I’ve listed all the ones I could find above, in case you ever find yourself using a digital set top box post-install time.
The box has both composite video and S-Video outputs, but obviously no component, HDMI or VGA. The audio is covered with both analogue RCA stereo output, and digital.
If your area isn’t yet covered by the digital service, you can still get most (all?) of those channels, but only with Russian audio (BBC/CNN excepted).
The ANNUAL rental for the box is around 750 Tenge (that is around 3 UK pounds, or $5!), and the monthly charge depends on which channel package you go for. I’ll have to double check with Irina, but I think the Prestige package (as DanD rightly pointed out, Kazakhstan HAD to have a channel package called that!) costs around 4000 Tenge per month.
I’ll try to post more information as it arises.