All Things TV - TiVo, Dish Network, DirecTV

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cable and Satellite TV A La Carte

According to a recent Associated Press story, consumers could save 13% on cable bills if they were allowed to pay for their cable/satellite tv service by channel instead of being forced to subscribe to 208 channels that they don't really want. In fact, the FCC is considering introducing legislation that would force providers to offer such services. Well that's not a big surprise to me. I think I can honestly say that I would be pretty happy with about 10 channels. Break down my monthly DirecTV bill, and I think that would put my bill at, hmm, carry the one... $2.98. Sounds good, I'll take it.

Now, back to reality. Cable and satellite services survive because they charge you $40 for a bunch of stuff you don't really want. Force them to charge per channel, and you'll only end up paying more per channel. Now it's not clear from this report if the new legislation under consideration would also dictate the price per channel service providers would be allowed to charge.

The other issue at stake here is allowing picking and choosing channels as a way for parents to control what channels are available to children. Seems like a swell idea, but we already have this now. If a parent is even slightly tech savvy, they can program their cable box, satellite dish, TiVo, or what have you to lock out certain offensive channels from their children, husbands, pets, and so forth.

Of course that's just my opinion. I could be totally wrong.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Still No Lifetime for Dish Network Subscribers

Despite their concerted efforts, Lifetime and the Lifetime Movie Network are still conspicuously absent from the Dish Network channel lineup. Lifetime claims that Dish is basically discriminating against women with the move, pointing out in a recent full page ad in the New York Times, that Dish carries something like 30 channels focusing on sports, and somewhere around 0 channels for women.

EchoStar claims that Lifetime wanted a giant 76% rate hike. Lifetime says EchoStart wanted a 33% rate cut. The National Organization for Women (NOW) has started a campaign to boycott Dish Network untill they put the channels back on the air.

Isn't this exciting!

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40% of PVR Users Will Watch Super Bowl Live

According to a poll posted yesterday on PVRWire, about 40% of respondents will watch Super Bowl XL live. Another 27% will watch it delayed only by minutes on their PVR. Only 7% will watch it days later.

This should make tv advertisers happy, who are still ponying up $2.5 million per 30 second spot for ads during the big game.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Rumor: AT&T to Buy EchoStar

The latest and greatest from the world of mergers and acquisitions rumors is that AT&T may be taking steps to buy EchoStar, best known of course for their Dish Network satellite TV service. No details yet on what the terms might be, but EchoStar is valued at around $12 billion right now.

This would really not be any great surprise. The whole world of entertainment and communications has been undergoing some massive consolidation over the last few years. If AT&T were to add video back into its mix again (uhh, didn't they sell out to Comcast a few years ago?) it would pretty much complete its resume as a full blown media and communications company.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Problems with the New DirecTV R15 DVR

USA Today reports that DirecTV is running into some problems with the new R15 DVR released last month. They have already sent out two software updates since the device was rolled out.

"It's important for DirecTV, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., to get things right: The new DVR — with software from Murdoch's NDS Group — will enable the No. 1 satellite company to offer video on demand and other services that it considers crucial to help it compete with cable.

But sales could stall if consumers still prefer the models it has marketed for years featuring TiVo."

I'd say so. It would indeed suck for DirecTV if it ended up they gave TiVo the boot, but no one likes their new DVR, despite all the hype. Despite their problems, TiVo has the user-friendly software thing down. There's just no other DVR out there I would trust my father to use.

Full story

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

$25,000 If You Can Hack the DirecTV R15 DVR

WeaKnees is offering up to $25,000 to the first person who can hack the DirecTV R15 DVR to do at least some of the following:

  • Add a second hard drive
  • Move programming from the existing HDD to a larger drive
  • Move settings from the existing HDD to a larger drive

They are specifically not looking to disable the DRM on the device, or to get around paying for monthly service. They pretty much just want some way to increase the capacity of the R15.

The minimum they will pay for a "workable" solution is $10,000, going up to $25,000 if it includes all the features they want. If they think your work is just spectacular, they'll consider hiring you as a contractor to do other good things. Sounds like a sweet deal. Too bad I'm not a hacker.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

DirecTV Fined for Violating Do-Not-Call Regulations

Yup, more fines for DirecTV. This time they're being slapped for violating FTC regulations regarding the national "do not call" list. That will cost them $5.34 million. If the settlement is approved, it would be the largest civil penalty in a consumer protection case.

The FTC has stated that beginning in November 2003, it has received "thousands" of complaints that DirecTV had been disregarding the "do not call" list. There are over 110 million numbers registered on the list.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Misleading Ads Cost DirecTV $5 Million


AdJab reports that DirecTV has recently agreed to pay $5 million to 22 states as restitution for misleading advertisements and practices.

Two years ago, these 22 states registered complaints against DirecTV, saying that some of the programming advertised by the company was not actually available in all areas, some local channels were not available, and reception was sometimes poor. In addition, the company was criticized for having an unfair cancellation policy. In addition to shelling out $5 million, DirecTV has agreed to be clearer about this stuff in the future.

Well I sure feel better now.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dish Network offering Free Sirius Car Radio

Dish Network
Good News from Dish Network. If you sign up for Dish service during the month of December, they'll give you a free Sirius Radio system for your car. All you have to do is pay for 3 months of Sirius service, and the hardware is free.

You still get up to 4 rooms for only $31.99 a month, and you can still get the free DVR upgrade. Pretty sweet deal if you're thinking of switching.

Sign up for Dish Network

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Review: DirecTV HD DVR HR 10-250

Ed Milbourn has posted a review of the DirecTV HR 10-250 HD DVR. The thing has a massive 250GB hard drive, which will store about 200 hours of standard definition programming. Unfortunately that's only enough for 30 hours of HDTV. Still, that's no less than I can store in "Good" quality on my "80 hour" TiVo.

Like previous DirecTV DVR's, it records the digital satellite data directly to the hard drive, with no decoding/recoding, so quality is excellent. This also means the device doesn't have to spend copious processor time doing Digital/Analog conversion, so performance is top notch.

The bas news is that the software is still buggy. Ed had to return one unit that frequently froze on him. The UI also apparently leaves something to be desired, along with the remote control.

Ed says:

So, would I recommend acquiring this unit? If you have engineering and/or computer expertise plus patients, go for it. It performs very well. To the average HDTV user, I would suggest waiting on the availability of the new DIRECTV unit with NDS service, and hope for a better design.

From HDTV Magazine

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