DirecTV Review

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History

DirecTV first launched service in 1994 and celebrated their one millionth customer about a year-and-a-half later in November, 1995. Today, they serve approximately 20 million TV subscribers across the US. The company is based in El Segundo, CA, just walking distance to LAX International Airport (although does anyone walk in LA?). DirecTV is a public company, and traded on the NASDAQ market as DTV. DirecTV’s official brand is all capital letters as in “DIRECTV,” but publications typically use the less blaring upper and lowercase rendition as in “DirecTV.”

Packages

DirecTV offer 5 different TV packages: Entertainment, Choice, Xtra, Ultimate and Premiere. The packages range from $29.99 per month to $91.99 per month for new customers, and DirecTV is currently offering $5-off per month for the first 12 months in a 12-month contract. (Those prices range from $54.99 to $124.99 per month for existing customers.) Of course, there are also additional costs per month depending on what equipment, services or channels you want to add. HD, international, and niche sports channels will definitely cost you extra. And, even with the top-of-the-line service you’ll need to add in equipment rental fees. DirecTV only offers television service, but you can get some good deals when bundled with local cable or fiber-optic phone and internet providers.

HD Channels

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DirecTV offers 190 full-time HD channels, which is “more than anyone” according to the company. (Although, competing satellite provider Dish claims to have over 200 HD channels.) DirecTV was one of the front runners in launching more HD channels than anyone else, and still has a few channels that many other providers don’t have such as 3net, beIN SPORT (in English and Spanish), and MSG+. What’s nice about the DirecTV channel guide is HD channels and their SD counterparts are located on the same guide number. This makes it much easier to remember and find the hi-def channels, in contrast to providers like Verizon FiOS TV and AT&T U-verse that have separate locations for HD and SD versions.

Watch Anywhere via apps

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DirecTV has apps for tablets and smartphones on both Apple iOS and Android platforms. The recently updated apps allow you browse and set your DVR to record, purchase movies and events, and view certain programs. Why can you only view certain programs remotely? Some distribution licenses for content only include in-home viewing, so you need to be on your own home network to watch some networks. The DIRECTV app interface shows you a listing of all the programming available on your TV, but not all are clickable.

The DIRECTV tablet app interface is much more elaborate than the smartphone app. In the tablet interface you’ll find columns of content that can be customized to create your own user experience. The three default columns immediately visible to users include Currently Watching, Live TV Streaming, and What’s Hot. But, a horizontal swipe on the screen reveals a bunch of new columns that can moved into different positions.

DirecTV’s GenieGo software (formerly called DIRECTV nomad) works with the Genie HD DVR enabling you to download TV shows to watch anywhere on your device (PC, Mac, Android or iOS) without an internet connection. With a Wi-Fi connection, you can also stream programming immediately after the program starts recording to your DVR.

Picture Quality

We’re not looking at SD for this review, because what’s the point? 480i is 480i and looks like junk on any TV bigger than 13-inches. As far as HD, DirecTV’s picture quality is generally good. But check out this still from the first Sunday Night Football game between the Cowboys and the Giants. Notice how jagged and mushy the text looks. Sometimes you can blame bad picture quality on the camera feeds, but only if the graphics look sharp. But this particular game looked terrible overall. You’d think DirecTV would be interested in maximizing picture quality for live primetime programming such as SNF.

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As far as On Demand, an option DirecTV offers with some titles is the ability to choose between Faster HD quality and Highest Quality HD. The downloads will take longer for the Highest Quality, but it’s worth the wait. I’ve compared a Game of Thrones episode in both HD Quality and the Highest Quality, and there is definitely a noticeable difference. Game of Thrones has very dramatic cinematography that can easily get destroyed with over compression. If you want to test out HD quality on any broadcast, choose a submarine film like U-571 (or the German film Das Boot), and you’ll see what over compression does to those deep ocean shots. When watching high key programs, such as news casts and sporting events, it can be harder to see video breakdown.

For even better HD quality, DIRECTV CINEMA offers titles in 1080p/24fps. Of course, your HDTV needs to support 1080p, and, you might have to check your HDTV’s settings to be sure the high quality is enabled. 1080p is supported by select HD receivers and HD DVRs (models H20/HR20 and above).

Sound Quality

DirecTV says they provide 285 channels with more than 170 HD channels in Dolby-Digital 5.1 theater-quality sound. Sound quality can change depending on programming, but movies sound pretty darn good on a 5-channel surround sound. Keep in mind though, that if your audio doesn’t sound that great it could be the settings in your TV, rather than your DirecTV broadcasts.

DirecTV Guide

Although DirecTV’s guide is easy to use, changing channels in DirecTV can be very slow. If you’ve only had DirecTV you might not know the difference. But, when comparing to Verizon FiOS TV or over-the-air DTV switching channels on DirecTV can seem like a lifetime. But browsing video-on-demand titles (because of the sheer number) might make you pull your hair out. Here’s some advice for you. When going to On Demand try to stay away from selecting the “All” option, because you might be waiting several minutes for them to load. DirecTV, there has got to be a better way.

DirecTV’s channel guide has several options when you choose the “Info” button on your remote, a horizontal bar with Messages, Info, Last 4, Favorites, CC, Parental, and one tab you may never have looked at called “Audio/Video.” Audio/Video actually gives you picture format information and the ability to change resolution and format, and audio formats (if available). A few options include 1080i and 720p, cropped, and trimmed.

There’s also the Menu screen, giving you options for My DIRECTV, Search & Browse, Recordings, Extras, Settings & Help. My DIRECTV gives you options determined by what you frequently watch. Search & Browse lets you search through movies and TV shows using letter keys and suggested searches, titles On Demand, and Adult’s Only.

Another nice option from DirecTV is something called ScoreGuide. When on certain sports channels, you can press the red button on your remote to display the ScoreGuide, with current scores and upcoming schedules from all sports. The recently updated ScoreGuide can take a few seconds to load, so, be patient while the software gathers all the data it needs to display.

Customer Service

DirecTV’s customer service is generally pretty good, and wait time hasn’t exceeded a few minutes every time called when researching for this article (especially when it appears you want to order something extra). The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) rated DirecTV only second to Verizon in their annual report released earlier this year, scoring 72/100 in delivering the best experience. However, I will say that after purchasing just a portion of the NFL Sunday Ticket last year (when the price dropped towards the playoff season), DirecTV starting automatically billing me for the entire season of the NFL Sunday Ticket this year. After arguing with the customer service rep that I never consented to autopay for the NFL Sunday Ticket (and more specifically the entire season), I was finally credited the amount charged after about 15 minutes of waiting. Advice: Keep an eye on your monthly billing, especially if you opted for paperless billing.

Conclusion

For satellite television service, it’s hard get much better than DirecTV. Billing is simple to understand, service package pricing is competitive, and customer service is decent. DirecTV’s Genie equipment is certainly not outdated, but both Dish and Cox now offer 2TB HD DVRs that record twice the amount of programming. DirecTV offers plenty of HD options to choose from, including live, recorded and On Demand. But as a stickler for high quality video, I would suggest DirecTV keeps an eye on how much video compression is being used especially for live broadcasts. HDTVs are getting bigger and cheaper every day, so it’s becoming easier to notice when 720p or 1080i video is breaking apart.


 
 
Overview
 

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Positives


Lots of HD choices, good equipment, TV Everywhere options, NFL Sunday Ticket

Negatives


Slow channel switching, HD quality not always great, gets pricey after promos expire


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Jeff Chabot

 
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.


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8 Comments


  1.  
    tj in ky

    These people ate scam artist DO NOT sign up with them!!!!!!!! They do not stick to their agreements. Customer service SUCKS and are the rest people on earth, STAY away from them




  2.  
    ScumDestroyer987

    Why Do People Complain So Much????




  3.  
    RMJ

    DIRECTV is a heartless, money grubbing, scumbag company. My son was killed 2 weeks ago living away at college. Everyone from the land lord, HughesNet, etc… has let us out of leases and contracts due to the horrible circumstances. DIRECTV refuses to let me out of the contract, instead they are charging me $460 to cancel my dead sons service at college. You would think there was a decent human being somewhere in that company – apparently not!




  4.  
    Ivo Wunderlich

    DirecTV: Well, what is there to say, but don’t do it. I work and have worked in the customer service industry for 6-7 years now and have never seen or heard of a company with such horrible “customer service”. When you sign up and want to buy things, as stated in previous reviews they are as friendly as can be. As soon as there is a problem you stay on hold for hours, you get some trouble shooting such as unplug the DirecTV box and plug it back in and then they tell you they will have to send out a technician. That’s not an issue for me, the issue lays within the fact that they want to charge you for sending out someone to fix something that yo are paying for in the first place and that you do not get. When you then talk to a supervisor you get some unprofessional kids who don’t know the definition of customer service. They then get rude and short on the phone telling you that they are going straight by contract. They would not even attempt anything else then a reduced fee for the service call. I was put on hold for half an hour tonight to then be interrupted and eventually hung up on by a Supervisor. I was wondering how this company can have so many customers, well thats an easy answer, it is because they make it such a nightmare to leave them or call them with any problem that no one wants to call.

    All in all if i can make any recommendation, save yourself the trouble and go with another provider as DirecTV simply does not care about you. They just care about the money!

    Should anyone from DirecTV read this, you may want to consider investing some of the money you pull out of peoples pockets in training for your so called supervisors. Actually if anything the customer service representative was more professional then both supervisors i got to talk to.

    Last but not least, sign a contract with direcTV and you can expect your bill to magically increase with time. I started out with a $45 bill and am now up to $86 and no one can apparently tell me how that happened.

    Please do yourself a favor and go else where!




  5.  
    HT.II

    Correction on a few points in the review;

    The GenieGo (formally “nomad”) now allows out-of-home (OOH) streaming outside the home network over the internet as well, but only for the iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) at present. Android OOH capability will come later.

    Also the GenieGo will work with all HD DVRs on the home network or through OOH streaming, not just the Genie.

    And while I can’t speak for Cox, while the Dish Network hopper does have a 2 TB HDD, only 500 GB of it is actually available to the user. The rest is reserved space for other non or semi user controlled recordings, PPVs, PTAT, etc.,

    However, because Dish actually down-converts the resolution of their 1920 x 1080 HD programming to 1440 x 1080 they need less HDD space to record them and thus are able to approximately match the recording time of the DIRECTV Genie with near double the user HDD size at ~1 TB of user recording space.




  6.  
    Jonathan

    DirecTV: You can buy anything from them really easy – either by phone or from every webpage they have. However, if you want to cancel/downgrade service (say you don’t want the super-expensive premium movie package anymore), you cannot do this over the Internet. So when you call, you get the round-aroun big-time. They make you wait on hold, transfer you to another person who they say can make the change for you, give you a lecture on what you won’t be getting any longer (as if you didn’t know why you called). It’s tedious all these stall tactics and the badgering. Unless you are adding to your bill, you will hate DirecTV customer service.




    •  
      Buyer beware

      I agree, they make you call so retention can make the save on those expensive movie channels or sports packages. It’s very annoying that I have to take time out of my busy schedule to call and not be able just to remove online. You can order anything online or the automated phone system no problem to increase your bill, but call to reduce it your transferred around like 3 times while waiting on hold. It’s all about frustrating the customer to surrender and drop the call and continue with the service another day to make more money.




  7.  

    My experiences, several unfortunately over the years, with DirecTV customer support has been very poor. But I do like the Genie, DirecTV’s new DVR (you can get it for free if you agree to an additional two-year commitment. Watch out for “other” monthly charges. They nickel and dime you to death.





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