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Orbit and Showtime: Merger made in Hell
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Thumbs up Orbit and Showtime: Merger made in Hell - 06-December-2009, 22:30

Orbit and Showtime: Merger made in Hell
Chris Forrester

Service is one of the favourite key-words for most pay-TV operators. But we have received a letter from one extremely unhappy viewer to the Orbit bouquet over the Middle East.

It is detailed in its allegations of poor service, and if echoed across the subscriber base helps explain why holding on to subscribers was such a challenge. Two weeks ago we invited Orbit to respond but have received no comment. Showtime, Orbit's new owners, have started laying staff off from its Bahrain HQ.

Back in July Showtime Arabia completed what was described at the time as a merger with Orbit. We publish the viewers letter here, with the author's permission, not to be especially tough on Orbit, because every pay-TV operator suffers similar glitches, but a reminder of how bad things can get if quality of service is allegedly left ignored.

We publish the letter in full:

"While searching for some method of contacting the 'head office' of Orbit I came across your article and I would like to leave a few comments of my own concerning my unfortunate dealings with Orbit. We live in the Middle East at present and in February of this year signed a contract with Orbit for a 12-month subscription. What a bad and sad day that was!

"Despite speaking with (generally) pleasant staff, there has not been one week since that installation in which something hasn't gone wrong with their product. Sometimes it's the decoder (which has been changed at least three times) on one occasion I was told that the whole system was improperly installed - but it was done by Orbit so what am I meant to think about that one? I've been accused of changing some code (not likely to happen - I'm blonde and I accept that I don't know enough to do this in the first place).

"Quite often the menu or guide doesn't work, frequently the whole system locks up and I have to turn it off, then on again - ok not a big deal but when it happens 10 times a day it is a little annoying.

"At one point a channel (which I think was Animal Planet) was stuck on one frame for an entire day. I rang Orbit and asked when they were going to fix it and was told that there was nothing wrong. I asked the young lady at the call centre if she had access to a tv and when she said yes, I asked her to check the channel. She was a bit surprised and said that someone "from technical department' would fix it immediately.

"Well, it did disappear eventually but it took five hours for this to be done. I can hardly bear to comment about the content of the offerings from this company, suffice it to say that I've seen many of the same episodes in any one of five countries in which we've lived over the past ten years. I specifically chose this company as they had BBC Prime; little did I know that I would be watching episodes of Antique Road Show and the like which were made in 1998 as a regular offering. At one point this company managed to beam out LA LINK and Miami LINK for FOURTEEN hours straight. Surely even a die-hard tattoo fan would find that a bit much.

"The fact that it is broadcast into predominantly Muslim countries would surely preclude, or at least minimise, such programmes, given that the Q'ran specifically forbids actions such as tattooing/decorating the body. The most recent annoyance has been that there is no menu or guide available. Those options on the tv don't work - the message just says 'please wait' - for how long, a week, a month, a year?

"The web based programme [guide] is rarely up to date. As an example three days ago it showed Antique Road Show as being offered for 3 hours. Of course after a momentary delight I realised it wouldn't happen and so wasn't surprised to find Teletubbies or some other kid's show on offer. I've lost count of the calls that I've made to the much-touted one number call centre. Suffice it to say that with ONE exception (Miss Shalika) no one has ever called me back to find out why I am so unhappy.

"The country manager here did visit on two occasions and he did try to explain why things were not very professional in either subject matter or delivery but I remain unconvinced. I am always being told to put the complaint in writing and email it to the head office (wherever that might be) I think that what happens with these missives is that they are binned on receipt, the recipients safe in the knowledge that no one can contact them in any other fashion.

"So you can imagine how I concurred with your overall assessment of both Orbit and Showtime (which unholy merger must have been conceived in Hell by people who wanted to make life difficult for as many people as possible).

"The much vaunted Showtime movies in particular are overall a complete waste of oxygen. They were trash movies when they were made and time (in some cases 20 years) hasn't altered that in any way.

"Thanks for listening to my outburst. This is undoubtedly to be blamed on two days of trying to get some sense out of Orbit, being left on hold for up to 20 minutes at a time (good thing I have nothing else to do) and for being treated like a complete moron.

"The basic mistake of ever signing up with this company was underscored by the fact that we paid for 12 months in advance. The saving grace is that we will be moving on to another country next year AND I was sensible enough to bring back dozens of DVD's when I returned last from Australia."

We have kept the writer's details confidential.

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