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The 10 Things I Hate About DIRECTV
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (February 15, 2011) -- Editor's Note: To celebrate the 10th anniversary of TVPredictions.com, over the next several months I plan to publish a series of features honoring what I think represents the '10 Best' in the field of TV technologies. (And in some cases, '10 Worst' articles will expose companies and people who I think are failing to strive toward excellence, or, in some cases, not even making a serious effort to satisfy their customers.) Today, I offer the '10 Things I Hate About DIRECTV.'

I have been a DIRECTV customer since 1994 -- yes, that's right -- the same year the company launched its subscription TV service. Obviously, I think the satcaster generally does a great job of providing an affordable and compelling pay TV service. (Otherwise, I wouldn't be a 17-year subscriber, would I?)

But like any large corporation, DIRECTV has its flaws and quirks -- and company management often appears incredibly dysfunctional. It seems that they all too often forget what they're here for -- to satisfy their customers. And that drives me crazy.

So, today, I present, 'The 10 Things I Hate About DIRECTV!'

1. They Lie About HD Channel Counts
DIRECTV ran a misleading ad campaign last year saying that it had a '200 HD channel capacity.' The problem is that you can't watch 'capacity.' DIRECTV has never come close to offering 200 HD channels. In fact, the satcaster's real HD channel count is roughly 130, not 200. But for cynical marketing reasons, DIRECTV continues to leave the impression that it has 200 HD channels -- and it does not.

No AMC's Mad Men in HD for DIRECTV fans.
2. They Have Stopped Adding HD Channels
At one point, DIRECTV was second to none in adding new high-def channels. The company made it clear that would be the HD leader. But about a year ago, DIRECTV apparently concluded that it was too expensive to pay programmers to carry their HD channels. So, it decided to pull back and stop adding them. Consequently, DIRECTV HD viewers are without such popular HD channels as AMC HD, BBC America HD, Epix HD and many others. And there's no hint that DIRECTV plans to change this policy anytime soon.

3. They're Pretending That 3D Is Great For Subscribers
While DIRECTV has put the breaks on new HD additions, the company seems like it will add almost anything that's in 3D. The content doesn't have to be good, or even technically sound, just so long as it's in 3D.

The problem here is that the number of 3D TV homes is so small that few people are watching this stuff. Meanwhile, roughly half of DIRECTV subscribers have HDTVs, but they are now getting the short end of the stick.

4. They Will Rip Off Their Subscribers Without Even a Second Thought
The Better Business Bureau is overflowing with complaints from DIRECTV customers who say the company charged them outrageous fees for trying to cancel their service after experiencing a problem with defective equipment. DIRECTV has been sued by state governments over these policies and recently paid $13 million to settle the cases out of court. But stories continue to pop up
suggesting that the company is still up to their old tricks.

Good luck when you call DIRECTV customer service.
5. They Have the Worst-Informed Telemarketing Team In the World

If you call DIRECTV's customer service team with a problem, the chances of getting a straight answer -- or a correct one -- is slim and none. The poor CSRs seem clueless and totally uninformed about the company's basic services. Their main function seems to be to do anything they can to get you to upgrade your programming package. Other than that, good luck.

6. They Lie About Offering Movies In 1080p HD
DIRECTV isn't the only TV provider that does this. (Dish Network does, too.) But the satcaster claims its PPV movies are available in 1080p -- and that they are the same quality as a Blu--ray high-def movie. Any high-def enthusiast knows this is a big lie. Because DIRECTV compresses the picture of its PPV and non-PPV channels (to create room for more channels and services), the picture quality can't possibly measure up to Blu-ray. But DIRECTV persists in saying that it is.

7. They Lie About Shows Being In HD

Last year, DIRECTV announced that it would air all five seasons of HBO's The Wire in HD for the first time ever. Problem is, HBO did not produce the crime drama in high-def. To show it in HD, DIRECTV, HBO, or someone, would have to remaster the shows so they would be in high-def. After watching the first season on DIRECTV, it was clear that this didn't happen. The picture was a blurry mess, no better than standard-definition. But DIRECTV persisted in saying it was in HD. (Note: I will say that The Wire's picture has improved in subsequent seasons; season three, which is now airing on DIRECTV, is close to HD. It appears that someone took the effort to clean up the picture; kudos to whoever that is.)

DIRECTV played fast and loose with the facts before when it aired past seasons of Wonderland, an ABC series that ran several years ago. The company said the show would be in HD; it was not.

8. They Require Your Dish to Be Positioned Just So
Okay, I can't hate them too much for this; it's just a scientific necessity. But to get DIRECTV, you have to position your dish so it's facing the southern sky -- and it can't have any obstacles in front of the dish. So over the years, I've had to cut trees, trim bushes, climb roofs, rent and/or buy houses that have an unobstructed view of the southern sky -- and do a number of other things so I can watch DIRECTV. Like I say, it's just the way it is, but it still drives me crazy.

9. They Are Threatening to Remove Channels
In recent weeks, DIRECTV has said it may remove certain 'low-rated' channels. The reason: it costs too much to carry them. Well, that may be better for DIRECTV's bottom line, but what if you're a loyal viewer of one of those channels? (For instance, DIRECTV recently dropped the G4 video game channel after it couldn't reach a new programming pact with its owner, Comcast.) It's frustrating to know that one of your favorite channels could get the ax at anytime.

10. Their HD Picture Quality Can Vary From Day to Day
It's enough to pull your hair out. But one day, DIRECTV's HD picture on an channel such as HBO is outstanding; clear, sharp and vivid. But the next day, the same program on the same channel might suddenly be soft and lack detail.

Why does the picture change? My guess is that the satcaster frequently tweaks (and compresses) its signals for various reasons. And in so doing, the picture quality will vary.

It's frustrating, to say the least. But I will say that it doesn't happen all the time. But when it does, it's enough to pull your hair out.

So, that's it. The 10 reasons I hate DIRECTV. As you can see, the majority of the reasons are based on the company being a little too slick; trying to manipulate its customers and the media into buying its marketing spin. This is not uncommon in the corporate world, but as DIRECTV customer, I wish they would cut it out. Tell us the truth, guys; we can handle it.

Last note: As I said up front, I've been a DIRECTV subscriber for a long time and there is much that I like about the satcaster's service. So, I promise, I will publish a follow-up story in the coming weeks called, 'The 10 Things I Love About DIRECTV.'


Also see:
What Are The 10 Best HDTV Channels?

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Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He has been quoted in dozens of publications and broadcast outlets, including CNN, Fox News, Inside Edition, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Financial Times, The Associated Press and The Hollywood Reporter. He can be reached at swann@tvpredictions.com or at 703-505-3064.

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