Review of DirecTV (7 months later)

May 20, 2010

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Back in October, I first wrote about our experience with DirecTV.  Seven months later, how do I feel?


  • The DirecTV DVRs are far superior to the DVR we had with Mediacom.  The Mediacom ones would flake out and need to be powered down at least once a week.  It was replaced several times, but all the units acted the same.  The Mediacom DVRs store about 50 hours of programming.  The DirecTV DVRs have been relatively trouble-free, and they store 200+ hours of programming.  That comes in really handy when there is a need to have lots of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes on hand.
  • Aside from the fact that baseball’s blackout rules suck, I absolutely love having access to MLB Extra Innings, which was not available through Mediacom.  I can’t blame DirecTV for the blackouts, as these are imposed by Major League Baseball.  I have been able to catch a lot of Rockies games this year.
  • The ability to program your DVR from the internet is great.  If you forget to set your DVR, you can go to a computer (or smart phone), access the DirecTV web site, and set the show to record.

Negative, but not really their fault

  • We have our TV, phone, and internet bundled through Qwest.  A couple of months after doing this, we realized that they had not been bundled properly, and that we weren’t being given one of the discounts.  The multiple charges and discounts on the bill can make deciphering it difficult – especially since cryptic phrases are attached to the charges and discounts.  I had actually reviewed the bill and was under the impression that we were getting that discount.  Alas, the credit I was assuming was related to that discount was actually related to something else.  This was eventually resolved and we got credit for the un-discounted months.  I’m blaming Qwest for this instead of DirecTV.  The Qwest representative wasn’t willing to fix the problem; the DirecTV rep was.


  • Bad weather can create problems.  Our service was completely knocked out for periods of time during a recent system of severe thunderstorms.  This is an area where dish-based service is always going to lose when compared to cable companies, due to the fact that cable is hard-wired.
  • At times, the signal can be a bit garbled.  This comes and goes, but can be annoying when it happens.  The picture gets scrambled a bit and the audio can get distorted.

Please, please, please add these features

  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to truncate a saved program.  This can be especially problematic with sports programming.  MLB Extra Innings allocates six hours for a baseball game – an absurdly long time period.  I haven’t found any way to shorten this timeframe, other than manual halting the recording when the game is over.  The inability to truncate means that I may have a 2 ½ hour game that takes up 6 hours of space on the DVR.  I’d like to be able to fast-forward to a particular point in the programming and just delete the rest.  Even better, I’d like for the DVR to be smart enough to know when the game ends.  How would that be possible?  Have the TV stations transmit a unique program code as part of the signal.
  • Picture-in-picture.  I’m stunned that this doesn’t exist.  My TVs have PIP capability, and I know how to set it up … but there doesn’t appear to be a way to get it to work with DirecTV.  When I had digital cable, I’d split the coaxial cable before it got to the digital box.  I’d run one split through the digital box and then on to the TV.  I’d take the other split and run it to the TV.  The second split carried just the analog signal, but it gave me PIP functionality.  However, you can’t do this with DirecTV, because the out-of-the-jack signal is scrambled.  The only apparent way to set up PIP would be to have two converter boxes tied to the TV.  Am I missing an obvious solution to this?
  • I’d like to have the ability to create a custom playlist.  I often listen to TV while I’m doing yardwork.  I’d love to be able to set up a playlist that would allow me to watch a saved NCIS episode, a saved espisode of The Office, and then jump to channel 742 to join the Rockies game when it begins.  If that’s not possible (which, really, it should be) at least let me choose the order of the NCIS episodes.

Overall, I’m happy with the product.  The disruptions have been relatively rare at this point and DirecTV give me access to programming I can’t get with cable.

DirecTV Review

October 1, 2009

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Recently, we switched from cable to a combination of DSL and DirecTV.  The DSL is working out OK so far – no service interruptions or anything like that.

What about DirecTV?


Our tech showed up in the early afternoon.  Very friendly guy.  Pretty quickly, it became apparent that this isn’t going to be a simple installation.  Our current wiring won’t support the requirements of DirecTV.  Since we have a finished lower level (also known as “no access to wiring”), this means drilling new holes.  Note: if you’re in the market for a house, consider drop ceilings.  They make things easier.

The installer thought that our house was a condo and asked questions about what type of installations were allowed.  I assured him that the house is not a condo, but a zero-lot-line house (known as a duplex in many areas), and that there are no restrictions.  We then discussed the option of placing the dish on the roof or on a pole in the ground.  We get snow during the winter, so we opted with a ground-based unit to allow easy snow removal.  Two other guys show up to install the dish and run the line (underground) from the dish to the house.

The rest of the installation was pretty smooth, and the installer gave us a crash course on the remote before he left.  (This wasn’t the last time we’d see him, though – he left his drill charger behind and would have to return to pick it up).


Billing did cause some frustration.  My wife was quoted a certain introductory price and was told that there was an additional rebate that would drop the price lower.  In actuality, the rebate could not be used in conjunction with the introductory price.  After reading bunches of fine print, it seems that the people my wife talked to were confusing the details of two different promotions.  Probably an honest mistake, but still frustrating.

We’re also locked into a 2 year contract – there was no contract with cable.

NFL Sunday Ticket

We have the NFL Sunday Ticket.  My wife is pretty happy about this, because she can watch her Rams.  We’re ever so slightly outside the local area for the Fox station that covers the Rams – about 10 miles.  I haven’t taken much advantage of Sunday Ticket because I’m boycotting Brett Favre’s stay with the Vikings.  Dump Favre and put in Sage Rosenfels.

We also found out that the channel that allows you to watch 8 different NFL games at the same time is NOT part of the standard NFL Sunday Ticket package.  I’m not sure how much we would use this anyway, but this seems a bit crazy.  Seriously, the Sunday Ticket is pricey enough – throw this in.


We didn’t get MLB Extra Innings this year because the pro-rated price wasn’t worth it, with just a couple of weeks left in the regular season at the time.  I was hoping this might be part of the promo package we got, but it wasn’t.

I have been able to catch my Rockies on a variety of stations, though.  We’re getting the regional Fox Sports Net channels.  Sometimes the games are blacked out, sometimes they aren’t.  I haven’t figured out the logic behind this yet, so I basically flip the TV on and hope for the best.  I’ve caught more games in the last 2 weeks than in the rest of the season combined – the Rockies were NEVER on TV with my cable provider.  Right now I’m watching Rockies vs. Brewers on FSN Wisconsin – complete with  commercials for Piggly Wiggly.

We also get MLB Network, which we didn’t get with our cable provider.  I really, really like this.  It’s like ESPN, but with the non-baseball stuff filtered out.  Pretty cool …


The DVR we had with the cable provider wasn’t the greatest.  It seemed to hold between 50 and 80 hours of shows, and also exhibited some bad behavior from time to time.  At least once a week,changing channels would slow to a crawl, and we’d have to pull the plug overnight and plug back in.  This was the recommended fix.  There were also problems with recordings from one particular channel – the local NBC affiliate.  Shows from that channel would not allow the basic DVR functions (rewind, fast forward).  This seems really strange, as I assumed the recordings were just data streams, and that the DVR device wouldn’t even be able to differentiate between shows from various channels.

We have two DVRs for DirecTV, each of which should hold about 200 hours of shows (we don’t have HD – this would be less with HD).  One of them is quickly filling up with Rockies baseball games.  I need to take some time to nab  a few forensics shows, too.  So far, no weird occurences.  Hooray.

The ability to program the DVRs over the internet is cool.  I haven’t used this for anything important yet, but did test it, just as a proof of concept.  It works as advertised.


My alma mater’s game are only covered by the cable company (a channel that the company owns), so I won’t be seeing many of their games.  That’s a bummer, but getting baseball is a fair trade.

When I went to return my cable equipment, there was a security guard at the cable office.  The place actually got robbed a while ago.  I guess a lot of students pay their cable bill in cash.  I’m not sure how there weren’t 100 witnesses, though – the place always seems to be somewhat busy.