How is DirecTV so cheap compared to "Cable?"
October 1, 2012 7:10 PM   Subscribe

DirecTV seems too cheap to be true. Is it really a good deal vs. cable vs. fiber?

Ok, so we're a household of college basketball junkies (we live in Indiana, natch). We had u-verse a year or so ago, but ditched it to save cash.

The prices at U-Verse and Comcast seem pretty similar. If we want a good package that serves up all the sports, we're looking at roughly $130 a month (this includes HD service, DVR, Sports pack, etc..)

DirecTV has a comparable package (Choice Ultimate) that is only $45.99 a month the first year, and $65.99 a month the second year. The catch is that there's a $99 up front fee for the DVR, and the big one: you've got to sign a two-year contract.

So, people of the green, tell me of your experiences with DirecTV, especially if you can compare it with cable or fiber. Is the service good? Are they tricky/sneaky with hidden charges? I know, you've gotta sign a two-year contract, BUT ITS ALMOST HALF THE PRICE. Which frankly, makes me a little scared.
posted by teriyaki_tornado to Technology (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have it. Love it. Never had any tricks or bad service.
posted by michellenoel at 7:12 PM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Make sure the price you're quoted is for HD, I went pretty far into the process before discovering that the cheap-o price including the NFL Sunday Ticket was only for SD. I, too, was surprised that was even a possibility, but there it is.
posted by abulafa at 7:16 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My parents had directv for a long time and loved it-in LA. I mention location, because I have heard from lots of people that if you live in a place with WEATHER, directv can be unreliable. This was a nonissue in LA. Maybe search for some message boards of people in your area complaining/loving their directv and see if whatever weather you get makes it problematic.
posted by atomicstone at 7:52 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Switched to Direct TV from cable 2 months ago. Very happy so far, and my first bill was for $45ish. You can move with the service to satisfy the 2-year requirement, and paying an ETF is also a reasonable option.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:53 PM on October 1, 2012

I found their support to be really, really lacking - even more so than Comcast.
posted by lunasol at 8:18 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

As Atomicstone pointed out, weather can be an issue with satellite TV reception. Particularly rainy, overcast weather. That might be afactor in why they sell it so cheap-- the reception is not as reliable as cable or fiber.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:00 PM on October 1, 2012

We have Direct TV and much like abulafa's experience, the local affiliate company rep gave bad information and let us go "all the way" of buying a non-HD box and non HD service etc. Then no one was willing to fix it unless we were willing to pay a small fortune in all new equipment. Hubs was so irked with the entire customer service experience (there were other issues too, but it was a year ago so I forget) that he called to pay the cancellation fee just to get rid of them. Must be the secret phrase, because he was transferred to multiple managers and it was worked out.

We had an issue with time lag when changing channels and google led me to tons of people complaining about 1-2 year old DTV receivers that have trouble handling the newer software needs, etc. Just worries me that I'll be "forced" to buy a new receiver more often than I'd like, just to maintain status quo.

Recently our condo building announced they're adding AT&T's U-verse as a choice, so I'm looking to switch in the reverse, so I pulled out my bill for you. We pay $10/mo service fee for HD, plus $8/mo service fee for DVR service. In addition, there is also a $6/mo receiver fee for each receiver that we have. Newer customer pricing might be slightly different, but the fees I listed would be multiplied across the amount of receivers you have according to the type you buy.
posted by MuckWeh at 10:08 PM on October 1, 2012

I have Direct TV. It sucks--iPhone streaming not working at all, computer streaming not working sometimes, signals flickering out when it rains or for that matter when it doesn't, technical support who can't do anything but read off a script, football games that were supposed to be shown being blacked out, loss of Viacom channels for over a week, they canceled my account by accident and then accidentally also raised my rates $20/month, contract lock-in, frequent price increases, I bought all of season 5 Mad Men on iTunes because it was still cheaper than upgrading for two months to a package that included AMC, having to pay an extra $100 for installation and $10/month for service for the privilege of getting signal while living in a large condo building, and Direct TV's idea of addressing any kind of problem is to offer three free months of Showtime.

Oh, there is also an extra monthly charge for the DVR--I think $7/month, plus $10/month for HD, so if you get both that's an extra $17/month, and you cannot stop the DVR fee...they want to charge you a monthly fee for DVR services but they can't remotely disable DVR capabilities so there is no way of getting rid of the fee (short of exchanging your equipment, which if you during your two-year contract will, according to the reps I spoke to, require you to pay for the new equipment at regular non-promotional rates). And yeah, more receivers = more of these fees.
posted by phoenixy at 12:39 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had DirectTV for years as it was the only option in this apartment complex until uVerse came along. It was terrible: weather outages, somewhat variable reception (BBC America often had dropouts on perfectly clear days for some reason), crappy on demand options, and terrible customer service (including the absolutely bizarre experience of a CS rep who just kept saying my name over and over until I hung up). Some of that might have been down to the way the equipment was set up, but I'd only go back if we moved to an area where satellite was the only option, and I'd look into Dish Network first.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:15 AM on October 2, 2012

When my parents lived in Indiana they had DirecTV and hated it, for the loss of service during weather. It didn't even have to be raining for the service to go out. A few clouds and that was that!

I have many friends in Indiana currently (I grew up there) and have seen lots of facebook status updates about how DirecTV sucks and they can't wait to get rid of it. YMMV, of course, but I thought I'd throw that out for you.
posted by cooker girl at 5:01 AM on October 2, 2012

Even the threat of snow makes the DirecTV signal fade. You live in Indiana. Do the math.

I found DISH (I've have both) much better in bad weather as it took a pretty severe storm to fade the signal.

Also, DirectTV is cheaper for the first two years but once it reverts to normal price it's about the same as cable after you add in all the fees for DVR service, HD, etc.
posted by COD at 5:18 AM on October 2, 2012

Also chiming in: most people I've known who switched to satellite have eventually switched back. I find the signal to be overly compressed and thus ugly.
posted by gjc at 6:20 AM on October 2, 2012

DirecTV is a horrorshow to cancel early before your "contract" is up. On the other hand, Uverse is amazing; you just schlep your boxes to a UPS store and they mail them back for you. And yes, the satellite action can be DICEY. (Also Uverse has the added benefit of being able to DVR like at least 3 things at once, which is boss.) Speed of everything is slower with satellite.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:47 AM on October 2, 2012

We recently went in the opposite direction from you, we went from DirecTV to Uverse and we could not be happier. As others have said, almost any inclement weather (rain, wind, snow, even cloudy days) turns DirecTV to suck, and it's not that awesome to begin with. Plus as others have indicated, they charge you for DVR service, both an upfront fee for the box and then a monthly fee. On Uverse, our DVR service is included at no extra charge. Uverse also charges an HD fee though ($10/month), at least where we are. So that's the same. Also as others have stated, you might save money for the first year or so, but once they raise the prices, and with all the fees added, you'll be paying the same amount for crappier service. We're actually saving money with Uverse because when we had DirecTV, we had to get our internet through somebody else, because the DirecTV internet service wasn't available in our area (I've also heard that the people who do have it find it sub par to cable or fiber optic internet). Same with phone service. Now we're getting phone, faster internet, and cable with DVR, for about $30 less a month than we were paying for all that stuff when we had DirecTV.
posted by katyggls at 7:52 AM on October 2, 2012

I had DirecTV in Indiana for a year. I only had one weather related outage and the storm was extremely nasty. Overall, I was very pleased especially when comparing to Comcast.

The big difference for me was in quality difference in the NHL Center Ice package between the two providers. The bulk of the games that Comcast broadcasted were in SD. Plus with DirecTV we were able to watch local sports networks that were out of our area.
posted by Silvertree at 7:56 AM on October 2, 2012

We have DirecTV and pay just under $100 a month - for 3 HD DVRs, Showtime package, and every other channel we could possibly stand. Also the Whole Home service.

I've priced out other companies and they are at least $20-30 more for the same set up. We like having multiple DVRs, even though it's probably a waste with the Whole Home (except that we like recording more than 2 things at a time, especially on Thursdays and Sundays).
posted by getawaysticks at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2012

While Directv has its issues, we have very little weather issues, and that is even when it is pouring or snowing. It really depends on your individual satellite signal, (how your dish is placed, your area, etc)
posted by SuzySmith at 9:11 AM on October 3, 2012

DirecTV (aka D*tv) is a mixed bag, in my opinion. I live in Southern California, but my family has a place up in the Sierras that also has D*tv. Weather indeed can be an issue in the winter, making me skeptical about Indiana. You should ask nearby neighbors with D*tv if their signal is strong enough to overcome typical winter weather.

My gripes: The HD doesn't always look so good. Their CS is pretty bad. Their pricing is OK, but not as great as it seems from ads, as you typically will want a handful of addons. (You can get around some of this, like multiple receivers, extra DVR fees etc if you use your own networked DVR/HTPC system, fed from a couple receivers). You have to be careful with changing equipment, programming and options after your initial promotional deal, as there are indeed lots of hidden gotchas. I like the programming package I have, although I think it's grandfathered, and may not be available to new subscribers now. Some of their channels enforce HDCP (like HBO, some of the time) and will degrade both the analog and digital display quality if the component connections are used, or a non-HDCP compliant display is attached to the HDMI port. (This includes when the component connections are used at the same time as a compliant HDMI display--both will get a degraded picture.)

That said, I still prefer D*tv to any Cable provider I've ever had, and like it better than Dish (which I've never had myself but have used). But I do go to extreme measures, like using plain receivers to feed a networked system, at a higher up front equipment cost and some ongoing maintenance overhead, to avoid falling into the traps that D*tv sets.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:54 PM on October 6, 2012

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