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TV or not TV

I've been thinking about changing my TV service to satellite for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it might be cheaper and right now, cheaper is good, while still maintaining my ability to rely on TV to keep me entertained as I adjust to all these changes in life. I've been talking to friends with DirecTV and they seem happy with both their TiFaux and package, and they say they haven't had weather issues to deal with, etc. I think DTV might be better than Dish Network for my location, but I see both in my neighborhood. I walked down my alley today and I counted 9 houses with a satellite, which surprised me a lot.

I've always hated Comcast and everyone before them for their monopoly and bad service. Every once in a while, I get good people, but more often than not, I don't. I will say that since they went to underground cable, I've never had problems with transmissions -- my cable doesn't go out even in windstorms. But what I want is HD -- I have an HD-ready TV, but I really don't want to add yet more money onto my bill, which is already incredibly high for a sporadically employed person, just to get an HD box. I still wouldn't have an HD digital video recorder, and it looks like not only is there a package with a fairly low price for one year that includes a free (after rebate) HD DVR in one but you get a pretty nice level of extra channels for a while, for free, as well.

My main issue is that my TV, while HD-ready, is just old enough that it doesn't have an HDMI port, and we've never been able to get the component video cables to work with it, even though everyone said we had stuff set up correctly and there are plenty o' ports for the damn things. They've just been dangling off the back of the receiver the whole time I've had it. Now, it's not totally outside the realm of possibility I might be able to get a newer plasma tv in the near future, and if push came to shove, well, I'd just make that my priority to pay for one with HDMI or something, or find a way to make those ridiculously expensive component cables work.

But! What I'm wondering is... oh flist...
  • Do you have satellite?
  • If so, what do you think of it? Who are you with?
  • Do you find it better than cable?
  • Do you think of it as a better deal (right now, I'm paying for expanded basic cable and my TiVo service separately, so I'm curious about people who have different types of services)?
  • Are you happy with your DVR if it's not the TiVo?
  • Do you get HD, any of you, either through cable or satellite?
  • Do you think the service people are better with satellite than cable (I'm asking this because if they are, maybe I'd be lucky enough to get someone who can help me get my strange setup to work).
  • And just overall, what thoughts would you share with someone who's considering the move?


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Oct. 28th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Our situations aren't exactly analagous, because DirecTV is our only option here; we're too rural for cable -- but we recently switched to a DirecTV DVR, in order to get some HD channels, and I actually like the TiFaux better than our old TiVo. FWIW.
Oct. 30th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)
Hey, it all really helps me make a decision. I didn't realize you were so rural!
Oct. 29th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
a rambling response
jackiekjono and I have had DishTV for ages (at least 7 years, but I'm sure it's longer than that - I know we had it on 9/11/01 because we had a package that gave us a local NYC channel). We like it a lot and much better than cable although we last had cable long before it went digital so are not good at that kind of comparison. Last December our original Tivo finally died and we went through a VERY rapid check of options and ended up back with DishTV, getting I think their lowest tier HD package (you'd have to check with Jackie)and their ViP 722 DVR . We've liked the flexibility (it can record 1 HD off satellite, 1HD off an antenna if you have one and 1 non-HD simulatneously) and picture quality (much better than our old TiVo). We've generally had good luck when dealing with people. In our mad rush last winter Jackie ended up spending about an hour bouncing back and forth between Dish and Direct getting the to better the other's offer without much effort beyond calling and enumerating the plan we'd just signed up with; it's how we ended up with the dvr we did. I do vaguely remember that last year there were some issues with getting a TiVo to work with HD satellite input but I'm not sure if there is a new machine that solves that or not, however the service provided ones are also tied to a given service so keep that in mind in terms of future flexibility. I'd run the numbers but certainly in terms of service going with Dish dvr has worked well for us and since we've been content with Dish for ages getting their box wasn't much of an issue. Oh, and one of the nice things about our DVR is that for the price of dongle (about $30) and calling to activate you can attach an external HD to store even more stuff.

Edited at 2008-10-29 12:20 am (UTC)
Oct. 30th, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
Re: a rambling response
DirecTV right now is running a special for a year, so for at least one year, I could get way more stuff than I do now, and HBo & Showtime for three months, at much less than I pay for cable. And that's a HUGE package. So it is really tempting. And to basically get the tiFaux for free, which is essentially an upgrade to HD, and only have to pay the service fee, still puts me into a lower bracket. I will remember your calling around thing when the year is up. I think I've decided that it's just really too good to pass up. The money I'd save on the package would even give me enough to afford a new TV with an HDMI input, so there's also that.

I am sad about losing my Canadian TV station. I think that's the hardest thing about switching and still makes me sad -- when Comcast got rid of it years ago, I missed it horribly, especially at Olympics time, and then when I got it back we actually celebrated with drinks!
Oct. 30th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
Re: a rambling response
If they're giving you a good deal, take it and run. When it's up, play them off each other; the whole point of market competition ;-)

Losing interesting stations, particularly non-local ones, is always a bummer. When our local package started carrying our UPN and WB channels and we lost the NYC/LA/Denver/Chicago grouping I was sad.
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
I have DirecTV and have been very happy with it. I get more channels for less money than Comcast. I have only rarely had weather problems.

I don't have a DVR or HD.
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Yeah, that quantity of channels is definitely a plus. I have to lose my Canadian channel which means no more oddball Roy Dupuis movies in the middle of the night I'd otherwise never get to see, but... it's kind of a tradeoff.
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:33 am (UTC)
Just wondering -- is the third option, FIOS, a possibility where you live? That's what I went with here, and I love it. It's a bundled package (if you want it to be) for my phone-tv-internet, with superfast speeds, I've never had an outage, and when I called tech support (Verizon) I -- got an actual tech guy on the first ring, who logged in remotely to my computer, fixed the problem, and went on his way.

I'm using my TiVo with FIOS, since it has Lifetime service. Alas, it's not an HD Tivo, and I just can't afford one right now, which means my tv image does not fill my tv screen when I watch through the Tivo -- only if I go live, through the set top box.

merryish has one of the set top boxes with a dvr built in, and likes it lots.

If it's not an option though, aka_arduinna has had DirecTV for years, and seems very happy with it.
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)
Oh god, I wish so much I could do FIOS. I hadn't heard anything recently about them making it more available here, and after 45 fucking minutes of searching and getting nothing, I finally found someplace that said it's still only in the far outlying exurbs around here. Verizon's stupid site refused to even recognize my address. I was so angry by the time I finished searching I'm not sure I'd have been willing to sign up just because it was so frustrating, even if they did have it!

But I would love to get away from the internet-landline-cell bills and to be able to get tV too would be great. But I fear that is far away for the nonce. I've kicked myself off and on about not getting lifetime service on the TiVo, but I guess now maybe I'm glad. I really love the interface and not so much the DirectTV one, but... to save myself some money, it might be the way to go until the fuckers at Verizon ever make FIOS a reality here. I mean, this is SEATTLE, for god's sake. Dotcom city. And we can't even get fiber optics!
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)
I have had Dish for about 10 years, but now that we're switching to HD, I'm switching to DirecTV. They had a much better deal, and since I bought my TV through costco, I get all sorts of extra bonus points. I've also had the Dish DVR for years, and was perfectly happy with it.

They will be installing Thursday, so next week I'll be able to tell you how we like the DirecTV DVR and what I think of their programming.
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
Cool, do let me know! I'm thinking it's pretty much a made decision, but... I still have some reservations and I just hope that what I have will work better.
Nov. 21st, 2008 01:19 am (UTC)
Okay, I kinda forgot to get back to you (bloody cat kinda took over my brain!) but since I've had direcTV, I can say that the weirdest thing with it was getting used to the f'ing remote. :-> Their tifaux is very different from the dish one, but it might be more similar to what actual tivo was, I'm not sure.

Anyway, probably easiest thing to do is, if you get it and do the O.o thang, send me your phone number and I'll give you a call and walk you through it. :-) Believe you me, I needed that!!
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:58 am (UTC)
I am not pleased with my DishNetwork. I pay extra for local channels and don't even get the CW! I don't get FX or Oxygen or other basic cable channels I think should be included in my package. If I weren't committed in a contract, I'd switch.

Re: vs. cable, I think it takes longer to switch channels this way, and occasionally I have to wait while it "tunes."

It is cheaper than cable here, though, with the DVR I have. DVR is okay - better than my last, worse than my first. I don't get HD.

I will say this if you're having trouble with Comcast - the very first place you should go is Twitter ("comcastcares"). It is the fastest, easiest way to get someone at Comcast to listen to you, guaranteed.
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
Oh dear, that doesn't sound good at all. I've been really lucky with Comcast lately in that I don't have it for Internet, so don't have those kinds of trouble, and with the underground cables now, it doesn't go out. It's a blessing, because i almost always end up losing my nut with them. I didn't know about the Twitter thing (I still have only a mild grasp of what Twitter is, anyway, so that's no surprise!).
Oct. 29th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)
Do you have satellite?

Yes. Made the switch about seven years ago (at a guess), when DirecTV offered a free TiVo for new customers.

If so, what do you think of it? Who are you with?

I've never regretted switching, even though it meant paying for two lifetime accounts (original TiVo, then DirecTiVo). I'm with DirecTV.

Do you find it better than cable?

Yes. Better picture, and the DirecTiVo (and now the TiFaux) record at higher quality at lower memory than I ever got with the original TiVo.

Do you think of it as a better deal (right now, I'm paying for expanded basic cable and my TiVo service separately, so I'm curious about people who have different types of services)?

Probably about the same amount of money, except that the cable company annoyed me no end when they offered a free month of digital cable, and when I didn't see an improvement, didn't want to give my old service back.

Are you happy with your DVR if it's not the TiVo?

I'd rather have a real TiVo, but the DVR is acceptable. The most annoying lack-of-feature is that the TiFaux doesn't have a "skip to the next tick mark" feature. It takes forever to fast-forward through long things, even though the TiFaux has four levels of fast-forward, not just three.

Do you get HD, any of you, either through cable or satellite?

Yes. Switched about a year ago.

Do you think the service people are better with satellite than cable (I'm asking this because if they are, maybe I'd be lucky enough to get someone who can help me get my strange setup to work).

Maybe. I've had a couple of very patient tech support people from DirecTV, where it took an hour-plus phone call to get things working, but where we were ultimately successful. I don't remember having comparable problems with cable, but I didn't have as complicated a system then, either.

And just overall, what thoughts would you share with someone who's considering the move?

I was really leery about making the switch originally to DirecTV. If it hadn't been a combination of a wonderful deal (free TiVo) and TimeWarner pissing me off at the right time, I might never have made the jump. And the only problem I've ever had is very occasional weather-related issues. The DirecTV customer service has been quite good, too.

On a related note, I have an HD DirecTV TiVo (a real one, not a TiFaux -- got it from my parents when they moved to a condo that only had Comcast) that I ended up having to give up using because it's not compatible with an oval satellite dish, and that's the only way to get local channels other than over the air. I bought an HD antenna and got great HD reception over the air, but for some reason the TiVo refused to recognize the over-the-air inputs.

If you don't need an oval dish, I could pass on the TiVo to you.
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
That is really good info. With the change coming up to digital broadcast, it seems like now's a good time anyway to make a change. It's only $7 more to get a cable HD receiver, but... I still wouldn't have any more channels or deals, and the $$ I would save in getting more channels for a year would let me buy a plasma TV! Yeesh. I will definitely miss the cute TiVo interface, but... I can't really afford to buy another box for HD and it would stupid to use the old box for that, even if I could with the dish. I do worry about the weather issue, too, because it's very windy and rainy in my neck of the woods, but Christy says they haven't had any trouble at all. they're a bit more sheltered by trees than I am, and I'm right up from the water, so we get more weather issues, but I guess I'll see.
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:29 am (UTC)
We have the same problem with the TV in our living room... it was HD ready when we bought it ages ago, but that was before the invention of HDMI, so we have no real way of getting a good HD signal to it. We're probably going to look at replacing it early next year sometime when we finally make the switch to HD service.

Do you have satellite?
If so, what do you think of it? Who are you with?

Yes. We're with DishNetwork. I've been VERY happy with them over the years... Good quality signal and the few times we've had problems, we've gotten excellent service from them.

Do you find it better than cable?

We've had Dishnetwork for about 9 years, I think, so my answer here is a bit useless for what you really want to know... but yeah, I think it's a whole lot better than what we were able to get from cable (the only two channels I've found that I miss, because they're not available over satellite, are NWCN and CBC).

Do you think of it as a better deal

For what we're getting, there's no way we could get as good a deal through cable. For what we want to get when we switch to HD, we've crunched the numbers and it's still going to end up being a better deal.

Are you happy with your DVR if it's not the TiVo?

We *love* our DVR. I've never used TiVo, so I can't really compare, but the DishDVR is easy to use and has a lot of useful features.

Do you get HD, any of you, either through cable or satellite?

Not yet, but we're planning on it and doing research into it now. Someone else already mentioned it, but the other option we've been exploring is FIOS. We're still leaning heavily toward DishNetwork, though.

Do you think the service people are better with satellite than cable.

We had horrible experiences with the service people from the cable company... but we haven't ever had anyone from DishNetwork come out to our house. The few times we've had problems with our receiver, they cross-shipped a new one to us and we got it in a day or two (we basically wore out our first DVR -- it was early days and we had the first model they ever released).

And just overall, what thoughts would you share with someone who's considering the move?

One of the things that has made us shy away from cable and look more at satellite and FIOS is that Comcast recently released info that they're actually throttling back the HD signal on their feeds... so, while they're technically in HD, they're not as high quality as they could be.
Oct. 30th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)
Man, this is why I get so pissed that FIOS will never make it to Seattle proper -- my interwebs keep going in and out tonight and it's eating all my replies.

I'm actually most concerned about losing CBC. I don't know why they can't carry it, but that is the one thing that is weighing hardest on my decision. I use it a lot, but then, I would get even more channels, including BBC America and IFC, so... would that make me happier? I don't know.

::Is sad::

And also, I'd get more channels but with less money, and that is really hard to pass up. A year of more for less... plus a free upgraded faux TiVo and maybe even HD at last.
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