DirecTV’s Crappy “Upgrade” Deal

Yo Quiero TiVo Bell

So I got a message on my home answering machine that said that I needed to call DirecTV (my current TV service provider) about an “upgrade” that I’m eligible for. So I called DirecTV today to discuss this.

A little background first. For the past 3 years or so I’ve been using the HR10-250 TiVo DirecTV receiver. I’ve loved this receiver. It has 4 tuners in it (two HD and two standard def), it has a 250GB hard drive in it so it can record up to 30 hours of HDTV programming or 200 hours of standard definition TV. But most of all it’s a TiVo. And I LOVE TiVo. TiVo’s intuitive interface is easy to use and never has problems. So overall I’ve been pretty happy with this unit.

But now DirecTV wants me to “upgrade” to a new DirecTV HR20. The thing is though that this is not a TiVo.

Now when I bought my HR10-250 I paid $1,300 for it. Granted I’m a bleeding edge tech sort of guy. But now DirecTV wants me to “upgrade” to a unit that sells for $299.99. By the way this unit scored a 7.4 out of 10 rating from CNET’s editors but actual users on CNET gave it a 4.3 out of 10 “mediocre” score.

CNET listed the “bottom line” on this unit as “The DirecTV HR20 is easy to use and offers plenty of features, but its operational bugs make use more of a headache than other DVRs.”

You see, that’s the thing. TiVo is simple. DirecTV’s HR20 unit is described as a “headache.”

My bottom line is that it sucks that DirecTV dropped TiVo as a provider of set top boxes and now is trying to trick me into “upgrading” to a worse box than the one that I already have. Of course they are claiming that I can get more HDTV programming with this new unit, but frankly, between what I already get on HDTV and Netflix I have more than enough stuff to watch.

And are you ready for the real kicker? This new “upgrade” only requires me to sign on for another 2 year contract with DirecTV. WTF? You’re going to give me an inferior box AND make me sign a 2 year contract? Certainly there are some idiots that will take DirecTV up on their “generous” upgrade offer, but I won’t be one of them.

In fact I have half a mind to just bolt from DirecTV and move over to digital cable anyways. This way I can either get a Series 3 TiVo or one of the new Media Center CableCARD PCs plus a bunch of new HD channels and truly get a better product.

By the way, do you know what I paid DirecTV for content last month? $91.96. And that’s what I’ve been paying them a month for the past few years. You’d think they’d treat me a little better than this.

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12 Comments

  1. We dumped DirecTV when the TiVo series 3 came out and moved to Comcast because we wanted to stay with TiVo service. Comcast and DirecTV are really about the same thing — they just provide content, and they both have very very similar offerings as far as what you can watch. It was all about staying with TiVo. I’ve seen and used other DVR boxes, and they cannot touch TiVo.
    As far as Comcast’s service, it has been no better and no worse than DirecTV’s service. I know, it’s a Cable Company, and the Cable Company is Bad and Evil. But we have had no more problems with Comcast service than DirecTV service, and Comcast doesn’t drop out and fade when it’s storming.
    The TiVo series 3 is really amazing. I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t care who is feeding programming to my TiVo, as long as I have a TiVo, I’m happy.

  2. Andy Roth says:

    The “offer” does suck, but maybe not as bad as you think.

    I went from the 10-250 to the new box a couple months ago.

    First, if you call DirecTV and complain a bit, they will probably give you the new box for free. Second, the interface is not as good as TiVo, but once you get used to it, it is fine.

  3. julie says:

    Have you got fiber cable in your neighborhood? If so, you should look into that. Especially the Internet service. We have 15 mpbs for about the same as our 8 (on a good day, when I was the only one on the block online) cable service. More channels, less money, better quality.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Andy, they were offering to give me the box for free but requiring me to sign a new 2 year commitment with them. I certainly do not want to tie myself to DirecTV for 2 more years when there is no TiVo or Media Center services.

    Other than additional HD channels what do *I* get from this offer? Nothing. Now if they had offered me a new Series 3 TiVo or a new HDTV Media Center PC then we might have a deal. But why should I sign up for two years of additional service to get an interface that is worse for me to get used to?

    I’m paying them over $90 a month. What’s in this deal for me?

    Jeremy, I agree with you. Content is content. Comcast and DirecTV are both simply commodity aggregators of content. I can basically get the same content from either of them.

    So my choice comes down to do I go with Comcast where I can have my TiVo or a Media Center set up or do I go with a 2 year lock in and a crappy non-TiVo box from DirecTV, the answer seems pretty simple. It would be one thing if I couldn’t get Comcast where I lived and satellite was my only choice.

    But I’m just surprised that DirecTV would offer me such a crappy deal in the face of direct competition for a pretty lucrative monthly chunk of change.

  5. David says:

    I just upgraded to HD and with DirecTV that meant losing my Tivo… and it sucks. Unfortunately, cable in my area is more expensive and much crappier, otherwise, I would have left DirecTV just to keep the Tivo.

    The new unit from DirecTV is OK… but it’s really a step back… way back… from where Tivo is today. Frankly, it’s not even as good as Tivo 1.0, to say nothing of where Tivo is now.

    *sigh*

    The split between DirecTV and Tivo was a tragic mistake–for both of them.

  6. AMG55NJ says:

    David:

    You said that the new box is a step way back from Tivo, esp where Tivo is now. Can you please provide some examples of how Tivo, esp the TivoHD/Series 3 is way ahead?

    I have a media center set up right now with Comcast digital cable. I am trying to decide between Cablecard Vista MCE and TivoHD.

    I have never had a DVR box from the cable company nor have I ever used a DVR box from the satellite company at my friend’s house. I’ve heard of the many problems such as shows not being recorded, etc. with the boxes but I would like personal comments to what is so bad about them.

    Thanks in advance.

    And sorry to change the subject from the main topic. I do agree that you should keep your box for now Thomas. Comcast has a deal with Tivo where they will be putting it on their boxes for an additional monthly fee but so far this is only available in New England, I believe. The tv providers really should compete on the whole experience they provide and not just what channels they offer or how many hd channels they have. I think that Verizon is trying to do just that with their 2.0 update to the Fios interface. But I have no first hand experience with that.

  7. TranceMist says:

    I read an article in the WSJ on Monday. It was about customer satisfaction in the airline industry, and how they (the airlines) are happy that there’s still one industry that consumers hate more: Cable (satellite TV is the same industry)

    I download all of my content through the Internet and watch it on the go.
    The best way to respond to this industry is to stop being their customer, completely.

  8. Epic says:

    Reason DirecTV ended their relationship with TiVo was because of Rupert Murdoch. See, Rupert also owns a DVR company in the UK, so after he bought DirecTV, he wanted to keep the money in the family, so paid his DVR business to design the boxes. Hopefully now that he sold DirecTV the new owners will realize it was wrong to end the deal with TiVo and add them back.

    Don’t get the new DVR. I have their standard def box and it constantly deletes programs on me or forgets to record them. Also, you can only have 50 ‘season passes’ which is really limiting.

  9. Joost Schuur says:

    I got a similar announcement in email form, and when I called them up, they made things sound worse. The CSR specifically said that I would be losing any access to HD channels in the immediate future, even the ones in MPEG-2 (i.e. the existing ones that the DirecTiVo can decode with the old dish).

    Part of me wants to believe that this is just a scare tactic, trying to get me to switch. I called my local Time Warner office in SoCal anyway, and the prices I was quoted were lower than what I’m currently paying, even including HD, and I’d be on a month to month contract with them. CableCards were $1.75/month each with them, and the guy I spoke to made no attempts to stonewall me about using a TiVo with their service. It seemed like a dream come true.

    I’m still holding out until I absolutely have to make the switch, mostly because I have 2 DirecTiVo (SD & HD), and would have to shell out a lot to get new Series 3s, but once they cut me off from HD altogether, I’m making the switch to Time Warner.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the $200 rebate from TiVo on Series 3s expires on 1/26/08.

    For exhaustive discussion on all this, check the TiVo Community DirecTV HD Tivo forum.

  10. Jake says:

    You should do what I did TH. Cancel DirecTV, buy an HD TiVo and just enjoy over-the-air programming, TiVoCasts and Amazon Unbox. I know folks have managed to also get get generic internet video onto their TiVoes, as well.

    My experience with this has been good. There is very little “must see” TV, and most of that is on free TV. With a good antenna, you’ll get perfect reception and you don’t have to pay Comcast $100/month for the privilege. You can read my full pitch over on DMU, just search for DVR.

  11. Ben says:

    I was in the same boat, I switched to cable, and lucky for me Verizon deployed FIOS in my ‘hood a few months later.

    I love my Series3 TiVos and find them to be better than my HR10-250 which I also loved.

  12. chris says:

    same upgrade offer made to me in los angeles. i’ve been a satisfied customer happily enjoying me tivo-enabled hr-250 so why does directv have to go and screw it up for me?

    although, i do have a friend who went for the upgrade and got the new hr21 from directv. so far, he hasn’t had any issues with it. i will probably hold out until the last minute too. or maybe we’ll get lucky and directv will come out with a new tivo-enabled box? i can dream.