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Of the choices that blow, DirecTV appears to blow less. - Paint It Black
Living the American dream one heartbreaking piece at a time
Of the choices that blow, DirecTV appears to blow less.
I went over to Circuit City today and talked to the sales rep in the TV department for a bit. I explained my current annoyance at Comcast and asked three simple questions about DirecTV. First, how much will this cost me per month when all the features I want are turned on (meaning the package has the channels I want, HD service is enabled and the HD DVR subscription is turned on)? Second, do they supply my local NBC/ABC/FOX/PBS/etc affiliates in HD over the dish, or do I have to go to an off-air antenna? Third, what does DirecTV get me that Comcast doesn't (in other words: mister salesman, earn your keep and "sell" me on this product)? The answers surprised and pleased me:
  • With all the features I want, the cost per month of DirecTV is considerably less than my current Comcast bill. This was surprising given the calculations I was working under yesterday, but serves to illustrate my point about DirecTV failing the test of putting their pricing up front. With DirecTV, DVR service is about $5.99 per month. I already knew their HD service is $10.99 per month. The basic service package is $41.99. Apparently, tax is already handled by the service costs. Total monthly invoice: $58.97. That's about $16 per month less than Comcast is charging me (although it wouldn't include any "premium" channels). I can add a premium channel with DirecTV for something like $12.99 per month, which would still put DirecTV under Comcast for price by a margin of about $4.
  • Despite what I'd read on the various sites, I can indeed get my local network affiliates in HD via the dish, which eliminates the need for an off-air antenna. At this point it is evident that for my requirements, DirecTV is equal to Comcast and comes in at a lower pricepoint -- something that is always attractive to potential customers.
  • DirecTV offers a number of benefits over cable. A big benefit: DirecTV programming is inherently digital across the board. Comcast has a number of "analog" channels still, almost one hundred of them. Simply put, analog stations look like crap on the big screen because you can see the overcompression that Comcast is using. While DirecTV also does compression, all their material is digital so it is handled better. A second advantage over Comcast is that because DirecTV is all digital, almost all the stations support 5.1 surround sound. Hooray, my theater system will no longer go to waste when I'm watching regular television! For the money I spent on the Onkyo and the speakers, everything I watch should be in 5.1 DTS. Third, the DirectTV DVR is based on Tivo and Tivo doesn't suck. While I want to root for Motorola, the simple fact of the matter is that the Comcast DVR solution is still immature, has a lousy GUI, lacks sufficient storage and is prone to a lot of glitches. The DirecTV HD Tivo has a 250 GB HD, so it can store 30 hours of HD content and over 200 hours of standard definition content. This is a vast improvement over my current situation because the Comcast DVR can only hold 30 hours of standard definition content and something like 4 hours of HD.

Faced with a better product for less money per month I bowed to economic pressure and played the part of consumer whore. I plopped out the $599 at Circuit City and came home with the DirecTV HD tuner/Tivo device ($499 after the mail-in rebate). I got a bit of a runaround on the phone but finally reached the right department to schedule the installation of the remaining tuner and the dish. So, in one week hence, I will be up and running on DirecTV and can cut Comcast loose. I'll have to stay home for it because there's a 4 hour window when the installer will arrive. Of course, nobody will tell me when that four-hour window might be, so I consider the entire day a loss. In that respect DirecTV (or maybe the installer is from Circuit City, I dunno exactly in this case... things get all confused when you buy DirecTV service from Circuit City) is no different than Comcast or the phone company. But hey, small price to pay, right?

So, in summation: For me, Comcast blows more than DirecTV and thus is being dropped.

This is my show

Tags: , ,
Current Mood: consumer whore
Current Music: Iris - Waves Crash In [Midnight Sky Mix]

13 thoughts or Leave a thought
shelbystripes From: shelbystripes Date: September 8th, 2005 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the DirecTV HD TiVo doesn't support the new MPEG-4 HD streams they're switching to. Honestly, it seems that they're switching to a new data format for their HD feeds specifically to obsolete all those HD TiVos, since DirecTV is ending their relationship with TiVo and getting ready to launch their own new in-house DVR.

Ironically, TiVo has responded to this breakup by announcing a partnership with--you guessed it--Comcast.

Sorry for injecting this so late in the game for you.
feren From: feren Date: September 8th, 2005 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
What I've read points to two things:
* The MPEG-4 birds are a ways away from being enabled. The guess is that new subscribers in select markets will get -4 first and that it might happen as soon as 2006, but that hardly means everyone with an HD Tivo is out of a DVR as of that moment.
* HW upgrades are a part of life in DirecTV-land and existing customers frequently can get the upgrade done for reasonable prices (as opposed to retail prices).

I'm not wild about the idea of them discontinuing Tivo (and even if Tivo goes to Comcast, unless the prices and service levels change dramatically I'm not going to follow it) and I am not a fan of a new home-grown DVR taking its place (I've done that with my Motorola DCT-6412). Something newer and better is always on the horizon and the things that are out today are constantly bordering on obsolete. Naturally I'd like to maximize the value of this purchase but I look at this the same way I look at computer hardware: the consumer has to just jump into the pool at some point. Waiting for the mythical "right time" leads to hair pulling and no purchases ever being made.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 9th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)


"The MPEG-4 birds" is that anything like....


hopefully for you there is no packet loss

Shanedoll ;)
yotogi From: yotogi Date: September 9th, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: hehehe

That one's getting nominated for BotB.
captain18 From: captain18 Date: September 8th, 2005 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Comcast blows more than DirecTV and thus is being dropped.

How JWZ-like! :oD
feren From: feren Date: September 8th, 2005 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why thank you, good sir.
tinbender From: tinbender Date: September 8th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had DirecTV off and on through the years. You're lucky you're in a large metro area, then you can get the local stations through the dish, otherwise you need the other antenna. There isn't much in the way of taxes on it. IIRC, I was paying $49 for the services, but the total bill was $52, so wasn't too bad. Customer service and the loss of picture in heavy weather were my only complaints. I wound up dropping them when my 7 year old receiver was having major issues and I found a great deal with my local cable company for cable TV/internet and phone service.

Unless the installation is extremely cheap or you just don't want to mess with it, you could easily do it yourself. The tough part is running the wires. I installed mine three or four times, as well as my brother's and a few friends. Aiming is fairly easy, I did one in a couple of minutes. You just need a clear shot to the south.
feren From: feren Date: September 8th, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
[Customer service and the loss of picture in heavy weather were my only complaints]

I wish there was a metric out there to measure CS and see if it's changed since you left. It may have, it may have not. I know the runaround I got about installation (DirecTV telling me I had to call Circuit City since I bought it through them was just ridiculous in my mind) tells me it probably hasn't gotten dramatically better, but at least the rep was personable even if he couldn't help me directly. As for picture loss, did you have the 3 LNB dish or other? My understanding is these new 3 LNB dishes are pretty solid even during harsh weather. roho hasn't complained about any outages that I'm aware of. Not to say it couldn't happen, but it does seem that newer tech has alleviated some of the problems originally associated with minidish service.

[Unless the installation is extremely cheap

"Free" was cheap enough for me.

Based on the discussion I had with the salesperson, the installer won't have to do much but mount the dish -- the house is already wired with cable. According to him (and the installer at DirecTV I talked to later) I can disconnect Comcast and just plug into that existing cable plant.
tinbender From: tinbender Date: September 8th, 2005 11:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
The runaround you had was pretty typical of my experiences. My parents have DirecTV out on the farm and I get to hear about it every once in awhile. It's not the worst I've ever experienced, but I'm sure they'll cause the occasional LJ entry ; ) My brother had Dish, and it seems to be worse.

My receiver was a very early unit. I'm sure they've come a long way in the last 10 years and do a better job at keeping a signal. Roho is probably a better source of information on that.

Free is good! I'd let them do it.

Good luck with it. Mine was good and the new ones are better.
feren From: feren Date: September 8th, 2005 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
[The runaround you had was pretty typical of my experiences. ]

I can understand to some extent why it went down the way it did -- if I bought the package from Circuit City and their installer is going to do the work, then there's no reason that DirecTV should be involved. Still, that the rep didn't offer to do a conference call to Circuit City to try and square things off sort of irked me (he did say that if CC put up a fuss to have CC conference-call his number, however). It becomes a touch more ridiculous in the light that DirecTV has free installation offers on their website right now.

Ah well, politics like this are not uncommon inside companies (business units typically will play ping-pong with anyone unlucky enough to get caught in the middle) and when you start involving VARs they become even more common.

[Free is good! I'd let them do it.]

Every paycheck includes an hourly breakdown of my salary, so I know just how much my time is worth. Free installation lets me do other things with my time that might be more productive. And if the installer does it, I maintain plausible deniability and they take responsibility for anything that might go wrong.

[Good luck with it. Mine was good and the new ones are better.]

Much appreciated!
doomsey From: doomsey Date: September 9th, 2005 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)
comcast kinda pissed me off today, too.

a warning: some channels on directv are compressed enough to be noticable; I sometimes find it annoying. Yes, it's digital, but that doesn't help when you set the bitrate too low... For all its failings, the HFC plant that Comcast uses is capable of transferring a pretty spectacular amount of data.
From: almanzo Date: September 9th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm a loyalist to Dish Network, myself.
jingle From: jingle Date: September 9th, 2005 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel your pain, cat. When the spouse and I moved to New Jersey last summer, we got signed up with Comcast for cable TV and modem. But the bills were come out around $90 per month. After about 4 months, we dropped Comcast and got back DirecTV. We had our receivers from Illinois, so we just needed a dish, which the company out here neatly installed out front of our building with a cable running up to our second floor apartment. As far as Internet, I'm using Verizon DSL, which I am very satisfied with and feel it is just as fast as the cable modem ever was. The picture and sound quality is always great, with only an occasionally heavy storm briefly knocking out the signal. Unfortunately, though, the price of DirecTV is climbing a bit. I may have to drop the Starz package to keep the price down (I have a hard time finding good movies I want to watch, anyway).
13 thoughts or Leave a thought