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I remember the good ole days when Dream TV used to broadcast its cable programing over the Agila II Satellite in Nagravision I. For those of you who are not familiar with satellite TV technology, Nagravision I is an encryption system that was broken (or hacked) many years ago. For 2500 yuan, you could get a pirated satellite setup in your apartment that was reliable and would last a "lifetime." Back in those days, Dream TV offered HBO Asia and Cinemax as part of its basic package.
Well, nothing that good lasts forever. Perhaps because more people were stealing Dream TV than paying for it (not that expats in China had any choice as the government blocked legitimate sale of Dream TV here), the company suffered significant financial hardship. It responded to its financial difficulties by dropping its most expensive channels, HBO and Cinemax, and then by investing what monies it had left into upgrading its satellite encryption system to Nagravision 3. This newer technology has not been hacked and it is unlikely that it ever will be.
Well for any Western expat in China who had grown accustomed to his or her Dream TV, it was a major crisis: The party was over. At least the free ride was.
There are a few satellite TV providers in China and the one that I have had personal experience with is a company called China Satellite TV Service Center, headquartered in Beijing (one of several names that the owner, Yi Wangdong, operates by). They offer a total of five packages and I have two of them: Dream (both the digital access card and APSTAR Internet solutions) and CBTV.
Apparently what they have done is found a way of pulling in the signals and then running them through their own transponders and authorization system that doesn't work by digital access card but through a shared-cam configuration file and an Internet connection to their servers. You can think of them as either value added resellers or corporate pirates, depending on your orientation, if not place of birth.
Actually, before I finally realized that they were pirates, I purchased three packages from them: Dream TV using a Nagravision3 digital access card, and then a second Dream TV subscription as well as another one to CBTV, both of which rely on an Internet connection for authorization.
The Internet, shared-cam option is considerably less expensive than the digital access card solution but you get what you pay for. The signal transmission on the systems that are based on Internet connectivity are far less reliable than from the one we are receiving through the digital access card (because the shared-cam option is being retransmitted).
Related, their Dream TV receiver and digital access card solution do not work with our new Philips DVR (digital video recorder). The recorder sees all stations as "copy protected," even the free-to-air stations, suggesting that this receiver and access card are not genuine.
Prices seem to vary depending on the time of year, which type of connectivity you prefer (although you won't have a choice with CBTV), and whether you are a new or pre-existing customer.
If you are desperate for HBO and Cinemax, then the China Satellite TV Service Center (and all its "Doing Business As" names, see below) might be your only option--but don't expect smooth sailing all the way.
There is at least one other company in China selling Dream TV satellite by the name of Dream TV Satellite Service Center in Shanghai (http://www.dreamsatellite.com/) but I have no personal experience with them. They are selling the entire package (receiver, dish, etc) for RMB4,200 but they can't install the package outside of Shanghai (you'll have to make your own installation arrangements). If you already have the dish, they will ship the receiver and digital access card (good for one year) for RMB3,650 and annual renewals after that are selling for 2500.
Yi Wangdong (Don) operates under numerous business names, each with their own corresponding websites.
Please check the dreamsatellite.com website for a list of all of the names that Don operates under at http://www.dreamsatellite.com/piracy_dealers.htm.
Offers inexpensive shared-cam satellite TV packages in a country that makes it impossible to otherwise subscribe legitimately to these services.
Their system of "repackaging" satellite systems through shared-cam .cfg files, their own authorization servers, and APSTAR transponders often result in anything from brief "picture freeze" to extended periods of service loss for which they assume no responsibility (they will blame the problem on your Internet connection).
The so-called "legitimate" Dream TV satellite receiver and digital access card that they sell at premium prices are black market products that won't work with digital video recorders and stopped working intermittently for several days when Dream updated their settings on June 19, 2010. Company assumed no responsibility for this. When the owner finally did send someone around for what I thought was to check the signal transmission problem, the young technician changed the splitter/booster and then prematurely "recharged" two subscriptions for which they demanded 1500 yuan on the spot. I refused to pay for any renewals in advance and then was told that I needed to pay 300 yuan for the service call. We finally agreed on 200. Moments after the technician left my apartment, I mysteriously lost service on the package I refused to renew early. The owner, once again, blamed my Internet connection and then, after several appeals, service was restored 20 minutes later.
The owner of this satellite TV pirate syndicate engages the services of independent contractors throughout China. There is no profit in service calls, only installations and renewals. There is no relationship between the person in your home and the company you are dealing with.
Be prepared to cajole, beg, and threaten the owner, Yi Wangdong (Don), if and when you experience any problems. Remember that Yi Wangdong is a professional thief and when you are dealing with a thief, especially in China, you have to expect that he will take your money and run.