Why Comcast bites; Why DirecTV rocks

by pittcaleb Email    16569 views

I have been a DirecTV customer for 8.5 years, most of the company's life actually. When we moved to Saline, MI I was outraged that I couldn't get cable, had to pay $5 for each receiver and couldn't just hook up any old TV or VCR of my choosing. But once I got my 2 (and for a time, 3) receivers set up, understood multiplexing (you can't just "split" a DBS signal), I realized the picture quality was 100x better than what I had been receiving over cable.

Over the years I went from a single-LNB dish to a dual-LNB to a triple-LNB and then a different type of 3-LNB dish. I'm "waiting" on getting the newest 5-LNB dish 'cause I don't have the proper equipment to receive signals from it.

I've also gone from the cheap and free receivers they give/sell you to a DirecTiVo and then a HD HR10-250 TiVo. I love my TiVo and I love my DirecTV.

In that time, two other things happened: 1) Cable-based Internet came into being and I actually have a Comcast run in my house that I use to receive the Internet. 2) DirecTV and TiVo have, at least temporarily, dissolved their relationship.

So what's a man to do when he's moving? DirecTV set-ups require a lot more RG-6 runs than cable. You can't simply "split" a DBS run as you can with cable, and you need 2-runs per TiVo location rather than the 1 a cable box would require. Our new house is set up for cable, not satellite, so it would be much easier to just use Comcast and drop DirecTV off at this point.

There are 2 more issues factoring into this decision. The new TiVo Series 3 box is awesome - simply amazing when it comes to technology. It's a cable-card based box and only useable with a cable system, not DirecTV. I'd love to get one of these $1,000 boxes, heck, 2 of them. And the price just dropped yesterday down to $400 each. I figure I could pick up 2, go with Comcast for cable TV & Internet and be set, so I make the phone call.

First, he wants me to subscribe to a $75/mo package. I tell him that with HD and DVR fees, I only pay $68/mo with DirecTV and that is way too expensive. So he quotes me a $60 package. BUT... I have to pay an additooal $5 for HD, ok. And then they will lease me an HD DVR (non-TiVo) for $12 per month. I pay DirecTV $6/mo for my DVR fees, but I did shell out a few hundred buck to own it, so $12 isn't too bad, is it?

But I want to use a Series 3 TiVo - I want my TiVo, not some generic Comcast DVR. It runs on "Cable Card" technology and I need these smart cards from Comcast to make it work. Well, they'll give me 1 for free, the 2nd one will cost me $12.95/month. They want $13/mo, the same price as leasing their darned DVR, to lease a cable card? And I want 2 series 3 TiVo's, so I'd need 4 of them! So let's compare costs:

Programming $60 Comcast $48 DirecTV
HD Access $ 5 Comcast $10 DirecTV
DVR Fee $ 6 DircTV
Smart Card $39 Comcast $ 5 DirecTV
Total Bill $104 Comcast $69 DirecTV

And my programming will be better on DirecTV with more options (i.e. sports packages, new channels faster, etc.) Not to mention I already own 2 TiVo's and will not incur the expense of buying those fancy new Series 3 TiVo's. And yeah, I could use the Comcast ones, but both my boys (2.5 and 6.5) know how to ue the TiVo remote and menus and would have to re-learn the comcast one, and for little kids, this is a big deal.

But the story's not over yet... My fear of calling DirecTV is this: Although I own my 2 TiVo's, DirecTV has their own DVR now, a non-TiVo. They don't sell it, they lease it, taking a page from Comcast I believe. And it rots - it's just plain ugly compared to the TiVo interface, and remote layout. No one in their right mind would want to give up a working TiVo for a DirecTV DVR.

The statements on the Internet chat rooms claim that if you use DirecTV "MOvers Advantage" they will refuse to re-activate any TiVo branded DVR's. That when you move, they will install their DVR's and hook them up and all, but will neither put your TiVo DVR into service nor allow the smart card to authorize it to receive programming. This is my fear - I love my TiVo's, I paid $750 for one of them, and hell no will they be taking it from me and forcing me to use something else.

So I phone DirecTV, ready for the worst. The operator answers and I immediate ask to be transferred to Customer Retention. They do without question. When he answers, very politely I remind him how long I've been a customer and how much I love DirecTV, but that I am moving and I want to keep my equipment and in no way will I take their DVRs over mine. He typed for a second or two and then said, "yeah, no problem." We put through the order for the new dish to be installed, the new 5-LNB one, and we were done. No pain, no sweat, no yelling and screaming - DirecTV simply did the right thing.

From a technical point of view, there's no reason they can't install my units over the new ones they're trying to lease. From a business point of view, they obviously stand to make more money leasing new equipment over authorizing old stuff. We'll see what happens during the install and hope the installer doesn't try to push new stuff on me for some reason. But as of now, I'm as happy as a peach.

Most interesting though is that I woke up this morning to watch the morning shows while I waited for the bus with Josh and I saw that I was already receiving New York locals rather than the Detroit stations. No biggie as we don't watch local news anyway. I just hadn't expected them to make that change already. I've long been tempted to "move" to Pittsburgh. Get my locals via antenna and the DirecTV feed from my old hometown. Maybe someday :-)

So in conclusion - Comcast is freakin' stupid. If you browse the message boards, you'll see numerous accounts of people being charges $15/mo per cable card and others who receive 10 of them for free. There's no consistency, no rhyme or reason and they're only pushing customers away from their service in doing so. Their loss, not mine.

And as for cable, Verizon currently has 3 MB download DSL available at my location and FIOS is coming "by the end of summer." So perhaps in a year I won't be using DirecTV or Comcast for television programming if FIOS is as great as I've heard.