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-   -   DirecTV, Dish, or something else? (http://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f27/directv-dish-or-something-else-14862.html)

Nords 07-17-2004 09:29 AM

DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
TH, JohnBlake, et al, thanks for the discussion about cable vs DSL. Verizon is promising to send the DSL hardware next week. First month free, $29.95/mo after that, and probably no discernable speed change from cable. Although there's a rate hike to $34.95, I've been promised the lower rate indefinitely. I've been paying nearly $45/mo for cable's RoadRunner.

So now it's on to the next cheapskate challenge. I figure the bane of ER is monthly fees. I don't mind an initial upfront expense if it avoids an eternal higher monthly cost within a reasonable payback. Our cable costs are about to double and now that I'm no longer tied to RoadRunner I'm ready to move to a better TV provider. Lemme explain our problem and our viewing habits and maybe someone can recommend a satellite TV provider.

Our cable company contacted us several months ago to let us know that they didn't configure our street correctly back in 198? and that they were going to fix the problem. We bought the cheapest "Basic" service in 2000 for $11.50/mo and when we turned on the TV we discovered that it included more channels than promised. After an attempt to explain the situation to their customer service and being given the impression that I was an idiot, I gave up-- caveat vendor. Unfortunately spouse & kid proceeded to addict themselves to HGTV & Nickleodeon from the "extra" channel.

Now it turns out that "fixing the problem" involves installing all those filters that they'd neglected the first time. We were offered the choice of continuing our "Basic" service (now minus its extra channels) or "upgrading" to "Standard" at $32/mo. Facing mutiny at home, I counterattacked the cable company and managed to negotiate six months at $23/mo. Now the clock is ticking...

It's not unusual for us to have two TVs running live while I'm recording an additional 3-4 channels on pawnshop VHS VCRs. As I understand Dish (the most widely advertised choice on Oahu), the dish has one receiver. Simultaneously recording/viewing additional channels requires additional receivers, which costs more monthly fees. I realized that broadcast channels are most of our recording, so our first purchase will be a Radio Shack TV antenna (remember those?). It'll mount on the back roof, pointed at Honolulu, with a coax feeder to a three-VCR bank that'll handle most of the recording load.

We have plenty of roof for as many dishes as necessary. Spouse, of course, will have the primary satellite feed which may or may not include a DVR. She'll also have a playback VCR. The kid can use a second satellite receiver's feed to a TV/VCR combo (enabling bitter complaints about being the only kid in the world without a personal TiVo). God only knows how many new remote controls we'll be able to use. If a company wants to charge extra for local broadcast channels, we'll say "No thanks" and use our old-fashioned antenna. We don't care about movies on demand like HBO or Showtime, but we "have" to have the kid cartoon package plus spouse's HGTV, TLC, and other honey-do-generating acronyms. If that involved more than one receiver then it could be ordered separately, but right now it's all included in our cable package.

I'm not sure whether our satellite TV actually comes directly from a satellite. Most of the neighborhood dishes appear to point to the western Waianae hills, which would imply a ground station link with a directional broadcast antenna.

Having explained my ideal system configuration & viewing, who's cheaper & more reliable? Are there high setup charges or lower long-term subscription deals? I don't need much customer service, but I'd be concerned if a company is unusually bad. Our choices appear to be limited to Dish & DirecTV, but I need to do some more research. I've seen the usual dishes around the neighborhood, but I've also seen a pointy helical-coil antenna and a flat plate about a foot square. I don't know if those are different flavors of Dish & DirecTV or a new choice.

cute fuzzy bunny 07-17-2004 09:50 AM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
Want to know the really funny part? By receiving those extra cable channels, even though you reported it to the cable company and they didnt do anything about it, you are breaking the law and can be fined. Doesnt happen often, but it does happen. Many buyers of cable internet were surprised to find they also got full access to the cable tv lineup because the internet installers forgot to install the filters or didnt bother. Some were subsequently charged thousands of dollars for possibly removing the filters that were never installed.

Weird world we live in.

My directv experience. About 7 years with them. Crystal clear picture, great sound, lots of channels. Dont discount the weird channels, I watch a lot of stuff from some oddballs like "the hallmark channel" that runs old episodes of MASH my wife loves and old westerns. Customer service was great. Three homes and three installs all done properly. Calls to add or remove services handled cheerfully. Problems resolved quickly and free movie channels offered for a few months to compensate me in the rare instances something was goofy. When I left them, nice financial offers to stay and a "sorry you're leaving, hope we get you back!". I never had an equipment problem and had only a couple of instances of the dreaded "rain fade" even though it pours here in the winter.

My dish experience. They had the cheapest all around package for the minimal 40 channels, so I tried them. The channel lineup was missing some that I really like though, like FX (for 'the shield' and 'nip/tuck') and animal planet (keeps the dogs busy for hours wagging and barking at the other animals just outside that 'big window' in the living room). Picture quality isnt quite as good as directvs on some channels because directv uses a 'spot beam' satellite that sends you your local channels, and someone elses theirs, "beamed" directly at them and no others while Dish has to jam all the locals into their general broadcast satellites. More channels, less bandwidth per channel. And they reserve a high amount of bandwidth for the premium channels. In particular, my local channel picture quality was grainy and often blocky. When I went back to cable I was surprised how much better the picture quality was compared to Dish's locals, if that tells you anything. My first time up on the roof a few months later found the dish ungrounded, and the two wires hanging loosely on the roof where one had wrapped around a vent stack and was fraying. I had asked the installer if he grounded the dish and he said he had. The wiring had been left in place by my prior directv install, he had pulled it loose for some reason and not reattached it. Periodically the signal would go out for 15 minutes to several hours at a time. Never got an explanation for that nor would Dish send someone out to figure it out. The receivers froze up about once a month and had to be power cycled for them to work again. Any calls to customer service had me swapping the receivers, and they considered a power cycle to be an adequate solution to most problems. Periodically my tivo would enter a wrong channel number into a receiver and instead of taking the next correct channel change, the receiver stayed stuck on an error message. When I left, they dropped the boom. While a guy came out and installed the equipment, I was responsible for climbing up to the 40 foot second roof (only accessible from a ladder propped on the first roof) and removing the dish myself. It had to be packed up with the receivers and mailed to them within 7 days or I'd be charged a ton of money. I was in the middle of moving and had no time to do this, but had to make time. Thankfully I didnt fall to my death. The final bill was wrong and it took me months to straighten it out. I ended up calling and escalating to the vice president of customer service, who was one of the biggest jerks I have ever talked to in my life. Dish has frequently been sued (successfully) by state attorney generals offices for their contract, service and termination practices.

As far as cable, i'm with them only because the cable internet is $15 higher without cable tv. Once I get an alternative broadband internet provider in here, they're gone and I'm going back to directv.

By the way, if you go to directv, get the directv with tivo for $90 (sometimes they'll give it to you for half that) and an extra $5 a month. Key in all the shows you like and it'll automatically record them for you, even if they're shown on different nights or are special longer running times. You can load it up with kids shows so theres "always something on". You can pause a live sports event to take a phone call or a pizza delivery. Dish has something similar, but its not as good. In fact, they're being sued again by tivo for claiming their product IS tivo when its not. Comes able to record 35 hours, but you can stick an extra disk drive in it yourself for $100 that increases the recording time to about 150 hours. That gives you room for a bunch of sports, 50-60 movies and a bunch of kids shows. Its a real money saver...you dont need as many regular or premium channels to "have something on" when you sit down.

yelnad 07-17-2004 12:55 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
We have the DirecTV with Tivo. Much like TH's situation, the Tivo enabled us to cancel our Netflix membership and we don't need any premium channels (like HBO) because we always have something to watch. We actually have "his and hers" Tivos, and it's still cheaper.

We had DirectWay internet for a bit, but recently switched to DSL when it became available. It's cheaper and more reliable.

cute fuzzy bunny 07-17-2004 01:07 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?

We actually have "his and hers" Tivos, and it's still cheaper.
So do we! I had to keep that girlie stuff off my tivo. ;)

wabmester 07-17-2004 02:53 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
We have Dish with the Tivo-like PVR. * No complaints. * Yes, I've used real Tivo's, and yes, I know they're a little "smarter" than the Dish thing, but I don't miss the "smart" features, and I don't miss the extra monthly fee.

And I love the RF remote. * There's no feeling of power equivalent to being able to change the channel without aiming first *:) * The downside is that even a 6-month-old can figure out how to use the remote. *(I should add that this is only a downside if you have a 6-month-old.)

And the dish PVR has a commerical-skip feature, which is fabuluous, and which, IIRC, Tivo wimped out on because they didn't want to piss-off advertisers. Tivo is also notorious for collecting more information about you than you want them to know -- Dish doesn't require the telephone link-back, so this is a non-issue with them.

Peter 07-17-2004 03:45 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
I signed up for Dish a couple of months ago. No complaints, quality good on all channels, including local stations.

One funny thing, though: when I called the cable company telling them to cancel, they asked why. I said I'd switched to satellite, with more channels for less money. Immediately, they said they would match the service package I'd been offered.

I actually found that very annoying, but it seems that it's possible to bargain with these 'people'.


cute fuzzy bunny 07-17-2004 05:39 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
It can be pretty profitable to play "chicken" with the cable/sat providers. Almost uniformly they'll offer you whatever 9.99 or 19.99 deal they're giving to new customers, or free HBO for six months or some other goodie. I dont know how well it works if you try it every six months though. I think you really have to sound sincere about disconnecting and sometimes I hear they just go ahead and cancel you. The magic person you want to talk to is the "customer retention specialist".

I wish these guys offered a little lagniappe to their existing customers to keep them rather than bonuses to everyone except their loyal customers...

Wab - Some of the newer dish dvr's charge the same $5 a month fee directv charges and the old free ones only have one tuner where the directivo has two, although I'm sure you could get them to waive the fees if you pushed the right buttons. You can opt out of the tivo "data collection" although frankly I dont like it either. The biggest thing missing from the dishpvr is "season passes"...Dishpvr's record a time slot on a certain day, but if the show you watch is "on a special tuesday night showing" instead of thursday, or it runs an extra 10 minutes like NBC has been doing lately, you're gonna miss it. The "wishlist" function is also one of my most heavily used and isnt something available on the dish unit; with "wishlists" you can plug in an actors name, a movie genre, a director, or a keyword/key phrase that appears anywhere in the description of the show. The wishlist is handy for grabbing content specific shows...we're now getting all sorts of 'parenting' and 'babies' shows :P

However the small differences, I think either, or the comcast cable dvr thingie (which is truly wretched, but does the job) do 90% of the things 90% of the people who buy them want. Everytime I travel or go to someones house to watch a movie or football game without it, it feels like I'm in the stone age.

Check here for gruesome details

By the way I see that many of the directv resellers are now including the directivo free, and all the wiring is free now too instead of nickel and diming you to death on a piece of cable. Good.

COD 07-18-2004 06:43 AM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
We've had DirecTV for years - never had a problem. I lose the signal for about 10 minutes in the peak of thunderstorms, but that is the only problem. Being much closer to the equator in HI, you may not have that problem.

We still haven't jumped on the TIVO bandwagon - although I did research building my own. If you are the geeky type you can roll your own PVR from an obsolete computer., and pull the show schedules off the internet for free.

yelnad 07-18-2004 08:59 AM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
Make sure you do your homework before you try to update your Tivo unit on your own. They have a 137 gig limit. (of course, only my husband feels the need for more). Also, the DirecTV tivos can't be networked with each other (doesn't support the home media edition), which is a bummer.

cute fuzzy bunny 07-18-2004 09:41 AM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
Your husband is brilliant!

I couldnt stop with the 120's either. I put a pair of 160's in my living room one even though part of the space is unused.

368 hours of recording time makes usage a little different.

I've got about 100 movies, whole seasons of the HBO series,and most of last years NFL playoffs still on there.

When its in the 90's here, its nice to dial up the AFC championship game and watch everyone bundled up in the 20 below zero weather.

I could probably have the cable disconnected for six months and still have stuff to watch.

KB 07-18-2004 11:41 AM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
I have DirecTV with Tivo, but it only records about 35 hours of stuff. How do I increase the storage on it? We have about 15 season passes which causes lots to be recorded. TIA

omni550 07-18-2004 01:20 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?

Try http://www.newreleasesvideo.com/hinsdale-how-to/, if that doesn't do it...type "TiVo upgrade" into Google...


cute fuzzy bunny 07-18-2004 03:21 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
These guys can help, from instructions on how to do it all yourself, buy a kit, or send your unit in for them to do the work.




If you're comfortable with putting a new hard drive into your own computer and installing operating systems, you can easily do it yourself.

If you can use a screwdriver to take something electronic apart and reassemble it without having parts leftover, you can probably manage with a kit.

Otherwise send it in.

The first guy also does a lot of out of warranty repair work.

KB 07-18-2004 09:39 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
Thanks for the info. I ordered an upgrade.....35 hours was a lot when we first got TIvo, but after a year and a half....... just not enough.

John Galt 07-19-2004 03:16 AM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
We have no dish/direct tv or cable. Why, even our old
antenna dosn't work well (I think a limb hit it). But in the
summer, we certainly don't miss it much, and of course
we save money, even subtracting an occasional video
rental. We almost never go to the movies, so nothing
much added cost--wise there. I even suggested
dropping all subscriptions to paid newspapers
(we subscribe to no magazines - they are in the library)
We still pay for one Sunday paper. That's its. This
(paid tv, newspapers and magazines) we have well
under control.

John Galt

sgeeeee 07-19-2004 09:50 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?

We have no dish/direct tv or cable. *. .
We don't have much interest in these things either. We have an antenna in the attic (that keeps it from being hit by limbs). We check out videos and DVDs from the library occasionally. We do go to a movie occasionally if the movie is supposed to have exceptional special effects. We stopped getting hard copy newspapers and magazines a few years ago. All of this saves money, but that's not really our motivation. If we really enjoyed dish, direct tv or cable, we would not hesitate to get it. But visits to the library for reading and viewing material is an experience we enjoy more. Plus, we have been traveling about 40% of the time since we retired. It seems silly to pay for newspapers, magazines, cable or dish that you are only going to be around about half the time. :)

wabmester 07-19-2004 09:52 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?
Is anybody archiving the stuff they record on their Tivo/PVR/DVR?

I'm considering getting a DVD recorder/player (now that they're under $200), but I'm also thinking of heading down the slippery slope of a home-brewed media server. Any war stories?

wabmester 07-19-2004 09:57 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?

Plus, we have been traveling about 40% of the time since we retired. *It seems silly to pay for newspapers, magazines, cable or dish that you are only going to be around about half the time. * :)
Of course, you can always get a dish for your truck/RV too.

The satellite receivers aren't tied to a specific location, so you can subscribe once and then use multiple receivers (primary home, second home, RV, friends, family, etc). Dish will charge you an extra $5 per receiver, but that's cheaper than cable at each location.

sgeeeee 07-19-2004 10:12 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?

Of course, you can always get a dish for your truck/RV too. . .
That's probably a good idea for some people, but Mrs. Guru and I would need something that would fit in our backpack too. And we really don't have much interest in this kind of entertainment when we're traveling.

wabmester 07-19-2004 10:18 PM

Re: DirecTV, Dish, or something else?

And we really don't have much interest in this kind of entertainment when we're traveling. *
Oh, you say that now, but when that snake bites you and you don't have your Tivo'd Animal Planet episode that dealt with snake bites, you'll be sorry :)

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