DirecTV: How To Turn a Usable Service Unusable [ETA: …. and Usable again.]

If you recall, a while back I wrote of problems we were having with DirecTV. The problems have continued: as of this morning, our DirecTV receiver was resetting at :28 and :58 of each hour, making it completely unusable. We’ve called DirecTV, and they are working on a technical fix… with no estimated time of application. As a SOP, they offered 3 months of Starz for 1c, and we can call for a credit once the problem is resolved. However, I’m looking at a daughter coming home who wants to watch TV, and going to a conference in a little over a week where I will be depending on the DVR to record stuff for me. Needless to say, I’m not happy. This problem isn’t just me. It’s made it to the Consumerist, there are now 26 pages of comments on the Tivo forum, and 11 pages of complaints at the DirecTV forum. However, DirecTV has not publicly said one word about this, other than a tweet that they are working on it. According to Weaknees, they are aware of it. Perhaps they don’t care and just want their customers to upgrade to new equipment–at least that is how they are acting.

[ETA @ 1:13p: DirecTV Says It Will Credit Accounts Of Customers With Rebooting Tivos] (h/t Carl K.)

[ETA @ 1:58p: Per the DirecTV forum: “The issue was due to some bad APG data and it’s has  been corrected about an hour ago.  folks may have seen one more reboot a bit ago but we believe the issue is now corrected …  fingers crossed”]

[ETA @ 6:08p: Appears to be fixed. Called for service credit. Wow. A whopping $3.]

[ETA @ 1:08p the next day: Email from DirecTV: “This is an important message from DIRECTV about your TiVo receiver. We are aware that you may have experienced a software issue that was causing your TiVo to reboot frequently. We want to assure you that we worked diligently with TiVo and resolved the issue yesterday. Due to this inconvenience we will be applying a onetime $10 discount to your account; this will appear as a credit on an upcoming bill statement. Thanks again for being a loyal DIRECTV customer. We truly appreciate your business.”]

So, what to do. Here are the options as I see it — comments on the various providers are welcome: [ETA: As the problem is fixed, I’m not switching… but the analysis is useful in case I ever think about it again.]

  • DirecTV. What would it take us to stay with DirecTV? Easiest would be to fix the problem! Lacking that, I would insist on: (1) provision of the new HD Tivo that does not appear to be rebooting, for free, at the same monthly Tivo rates; (2) no HD charges until we actually upgrade to HD TVs; (3) we can keep the Samsung Tivo, disconnected from the satellites, until all the programs on it are watched. Those three items would be the minimum; compensation for lost service and the unnecessary Tivo repair would be a bonus. I would also be willing to accept a loan of an HD Tivo until the problem is fixed, on the proviso that there are no charges and they have a technician come out and install it–no shipping delays.
  • Dish Network. What I primarily know about Dish network, other than that it is a competitor to DirecTV, is that they tend to have longer disputes with various channels over carriage (such as the long running dispute with AMC). In terms of packages, it looks like the America’s Top 250 package is closest to what we have now. They are offering some good deals, such as saving $30/month for 12 months, a free “Hopper” DVR, free premiums for 3 months, and free installation. The Hopper DVR is whole-home and looks to record 6 channels, but is not Tivo. The other TVs would appear to require a Joey receiver; I’m not sure if that suffices. Looking at base prices, after the discount, DISH is slightly more expensive for (250+Showtime), but by under $2.  I cannot find on the DISH website what other fees they would have: regional sports fees, monthly fees for the Hopper and Joeys, etc. Switching to DISH would also probably be the least infrastructure changes to the house — as we already have DirecTV, it would just be a new dish, possibly a new multiswitch, and some new wiring to the Hopper. It might also require them to install a network connection to the various rooms if they do not do wireless. I have emailed DISH to get specific pricing; their site made it easy to send the email.
  • Time Warner Cable. We’re primarily familiar with Time Warner Cable from use of their Roadrunner internet service. As for Cable TV, my experience goes back to the days of Theta Cable in West Los Angeles, and more recently Adelphia cable when we lived in North Hills. Translation: Bad experiences. As with the DISH website, the TWC site makes it hard to find the pricing. We would need the Choice tier. To get any pricing, you have to go to the order page (sigh). It looks like digital TV would be $39.99/mo, the whole house DVR would be $30.49, the additional outlets (HD, but we don’t really need HD) would be $20, Shotime would be $9.99… and there would be $40 for installation. It looks like the digital TV tier would include the Choice tier. There appear to be no free installation officers or other “goodies”. Given that the prices are only for 12 months, after a year, I believe we would be paying much more than DirecTV. The whole-home DVR can only record two shows at a time; it stores  up to 75 hours of HD or over 200 hours of SD programming. In terms of infrastructure, we already have cable going to the house for the Internet; some rewiring within the house would be required. I have attempted to email TWC — their site does not make it easy to do so, and the only non-chat method is a “Leave Feedback” form. The presumption appears to be you always want live interactive chat, which is something I hate. Demerits to TWC for a poor website.
  • AT&T U-Verse. Currently, our only AT&T service is home phone. We would need the U300 package, at $87/month (although we could live with U200 at $72/month). The package includes a whole-home DVR and one wireless HD-ready receiver. There would be a discount of $28/mo the first six months, and the activation fee would be waived. The package would include the movie package. It would be an addition $7 for the 2nd receiver, and they do support wireless receivers (making it easier to add TVs to rooms without wiring, a plus). Unclear what the installation fee is. Their DVR can record 4 shows at once; 233 hours SD, 67 hours HD. It is not Tivo. Again, I attempted to email them with pricing questions, but AT&T Uverse provides no email mechanisms to contact them — there is only live chat or going to their stores. Double Demerits to AT&T for a very very poor website.



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