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To Buy or To Lease

Here in the States, most pay-TV subscribers lease their set-tops for a monthly fee. It works well for many consumers because there’s no major cash outlay up front, and any necessary equipment upgrades are the responsibility of the service provider. That said, some subscribers would prefer to own their own set-tops, and some do by buying a box at retail.

Now in Canada, Shaw is offering a third option. Starting in September, Shaw Direct (previously Star Choice) will let subscribers choose whether to buy a new HD DVR from the company for $399, or rent one for $15 a month. The set-top on offer here is the Motorola HDPVR 630. It’s a dual-tuner DVR with 320 GB of hard drive space, and an MPEG-4 receiver.

I’m curious to see how many subscribers go the route of buying a set-top from Shaw Direct. There’s a perception that set-top rentals are a cash cow for pay-TV operators, but the reality is far different. Will consumers take on the up-front costs and replacement fees if given the chance? Or will they stick to the lease model for DVR service?