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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tune Into Full Spectrum of Pay-TV Options

MTFor a one-time investment in a satellite dish, you can enjoy free access to a range of television channels beamed over Russia.
"Reception!" No, that's not the cheer of a hardened American football fan elated by a quarterback's magnificent throw. It's the sigh of relief expressed by a late-night television viewer after giving a few good whacks to his Belarussian-made Raduga television set.

Getting a clear picture on the tube can be strenuous at times, even hugely frustrating, but the avid couch potato in the know should have a few tricks up his sleeve to keep snowstorms at his doorstep and not on the screen.

Getting good reception for local channels can be as cheap as 29 rubles per month ($1) or as expensive as $50 per month for those with a television appetite that craves international coverage. If you brush all the hype aside and do a little research you can even make a one-time investment into a satellite dish and never pay for television again. What it comes down to in the end is choosing the right package for you.

If not free, the best things in life are cheap, such as the services of Mostelecom, the city-owned cable television company. Mostelecom will connect your apartment to the rest of Russia for only 200 rubles by wiring your television to a cable transmitting the so-called "social package" of channels, including all-time favorites RTR, NTV, ORT, MTV, CTC and, until recently, TV6. After getting connected, you will pay 29 rubles a month for the clear reception that has been harder and harder to get ever since a fire within the Ostankino television tower blazed for 26 hours two summers ago, killing three people.

The next step up in the pay bracket is private cable television, provided by a few different cable companies in the city. Although cable packages add and cut channels without warning, the overall spectrum of programs provided should suit anyone's tastes, from The Cartoon Network to BBC World.

Comcor-TV provides digital-quality cable television through a fiber-optic network it is extending throughout the city. "Unfortunately, we are not operating everywhere yet because fiber optics are expensive to install," said Irina, a customer-service representative who asked that her full name not be printed. If you live in the center and a few other select areas, then Comcor-TV will supply you with 18 national and local channels for only 32 rubles a month. To get foreign channels you will need a decoder, a piece of equipment that will cost you $115. But those not staying in Moscow for long or changing apartments frequently can rent it for 85 rubles a month plus 150 rubles to have it installed. Comcor-TV also takes a 500 ruble deposit that you will get back when you return the equipment. It offers different channel packages that vary in cost from 200 to 340 rubles per month.

The next option may sound a little dubious, but rest assured, it is totally legit. By aiming a satellite dish at any of about 30 different television satellites pointing at Russia you'll be able to intercept all the open channels these satellites transmit. These space-born platforms, with names like Hot Bird and Thaicom-3, are used to transmit local television to many far-flung regions. You can have a satellite dish installed in your house for as little as $300 or as much as $1,000.

According to General Satellite, Hot Bird carries 120 channels, nine of which are in English. It also carries scrambled "closed" channels. For about $50, almost any satellite-dish dealer will provide you with a descrambling card.

"The cost of installing a dish depends on the conditions your home has to support the dish," said Viktor Plotnikov, general director of Fita Telecom, a dish dealer and installer. "If your window is typical, installing a 60-centimeter dish will cost you $300, including the decoder box and all parts. It's when there are things like trees blocking the signal that installation gets a little more expensive."

Getting satellite dishes through the many small companies that exist in the city is a good option if you do not mind having five Kazakh programs, a couple of Polish ones and something from Iran along with the English-language ones.

The two big kids in Moscow's pay television market, NTV Plus and Kosmos TV, offer a wide assortment of channels at an equally wide assortment of prices. If you're willing to pay for a mountain of equipment including decoders, descramblers, wires and cards with codes, not to mention dishes, you can tune in to more than 50 channels.

NTV Plus offers seven different packages ranging from 10 to 52 channels at $9 to $33 per month, respectively. Installing NTV Plus satellite equipment costs roughly $350 with a required one-month advance payment. As with other satellite systems, costs can go up depending on how suited your home is to receive a satellite signal.

NTV Plus's main competitor, Kosmos TV, offers both analog and a more expensive digital service. Kosmos broadcasts from the Ostankino television tower to antennae provided to clients. Two packages are available for each service. Ten analog channels, not including 20 percent VAT, cost $5.50 per month and 19 channels cost $10 per month. Digital service includes 16 local channels in digital quality in addition to either 24 pay channels for $19 per month or 51 pay channels for $32 per month. Installing Kosmos costs about $200, and the equipment is returned to Kosmos TV when you decide to cancel the service. Analog equipment can be installed for $50.

Once you've made your decision and had all the necessary equipment installed outside your window and in your living room, you may proceed to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Comcor-TV Kosmos TV Mostelecom NTV Plus