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We’ve had DirecTV now for a few months and that experience has given me some good insight about how it differs from DISH. As I have previously mentioned, my son took a job working for one of DirecTV’s biggest contract installers, and that allowed us to get the top-of-the-line DirecTV package for free. There’s really no way to argue with free, so we cancelled DISH after more than 15 years to see how DirecTV would work out. Here’s what I have concluded so far.

About The Same

As far as programming goes, DISH and DirecTV offer the same channels. Surely there are a few differences here and there, but so far I have not noticed anything that I previously had on DISH that I can no longer watch. DISH has a long history of offering a better selection of international watching-the-tubeprogramming, but since that’s not something we are interested in, it really wasn’t a factor for us.

A lot of sports fans might not agree with me about how the programming from the two satellite services differ, and since I am not a sports fan, I really couldn’t argue with them. I know a lot of football fans consider DirecTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” to be essential, so that may give DirecTV the edge with a lot of football fans. Sports fans will probably make out best if they carefully evaluate all the sports programming available on both DISH and DirecTV and make their decision based on their findings.

All of the most popular channels are going to be available on both DISH and DirecTV, although they will definitely be bundled differently when the two are compared. I’ve taken some time to review the programming packages that are available on both services, and I think I have to give a slight advantage to DirecTV. I looked recently at the lower-priced programming packages for both of them and I think DirecTV may be a bit more generous when it comes to providing some of the most popular channels, although be aware that you’ll probably pay a little more.

Don’t take the “low” prices that are advertised too literally. By the time they are done tacking on DVR fees, HD fees and other fees, you can easily end up paying twice as much as the prices they advertise for their programming packages. Those prices are the “base” prices for the packages and do not include extra fees and taxes just about every subscriber will have to pay. When you call to order service, you will be told what the final cost of your service will be.

So as far as programming packages go, I’d rate them about the same with a slight edge for DirecTV.

A Clear Difference

If you are curious about where DISH and DirecTV really differ, you’ll want to consider equipment. I have many years of experience with DISH Network’s receivers and DVRs and I have to say that DirecTV’s was a big disappointment in comparison. DISH’s equipment blows DirecTV’s away – there’s no doubt about that for me.

First of all, DirecTV’s equipment just isn’t as user-friendly. For me, their user interface just isn’t very intuitive, and they seem to have used confusing terminology for various functions, and just didn’t put as much thought into making their products as easy to use as DISH did.

I’ve been a DVR addict since I got my first DISH DVR a number of years ago, and I record just about everything I watch. Even if it is something I really want to see, I am usually willing to wait 30 minutes or so after a program airs before I begin watching the recording since it allows me to skip long, annoying commercial breaks. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have a lot of experience using a DVR, and when I first sat down to use the DirecTV DVR (the “Genie”) I found myself floundering around a bit trying to figure out how it worked.

remote-controlThere is bound to be a learning curve involved in switching from one DVR to another, but the difficulties I had ran deeper than that. The way DirecTV set up their functions and menus just didn’t make sense to me. In contrast, DISH’s DVRs were set up very logically and were easy to learn very quickly. With DirecTV’s equipment, it’s almost like the user interface was an afterthought – something they just threw together with a kind of “good enough” approach to the whole concept.

Another thing I have noticed is that there seems to be a bit more “lag” with DirecTV’s equipment than with DISH’s. What I am talking about is the amount of time between when you press a button on the remote and the time when you see the result. A good example would be changing channels. It just takes a tiny bit longer for the DVR to react when I change channels or do just about anything else on the DirecTV DVR than it did on the DISH DVR. It’s not a big deal, and probably not something to base a decision on, but it was something I noticed.

The Bottom Line

Comparing DISH and DirecTV based on their programming packages and available channels didn’t really convince me that one was clearly better than the other. You may be hard pressed to find channels that are not available from both of them. That does not include “specialty” programming like sports or international channels. If sports or international programming a major considerations, it would be best to carefully compare the two services side-by-side yourself and then make a decision.

If you’re a person who’s not really comfortable with gizmos and technology in general, it is my opinion that you will find the DISH Network equipment easier to learn and less of a hassle in the long run. For me, DISH Network’s equipment and user interface is clearly superior to DirecTV’s.

Duck Dynasty A TV Empire


August 24th, 2013

It seems that the reality show Duck Dynasty is all the rage these days on TV. I’ve never actually paid a whole lot of attention to the show but a lot of other people sure are! The premier show of the current season attracted 12 million viewers, setting the record for largest viewership tuning in to a nonfiction show on “cable.” (Aren’t they forgetting satellite?)

I’ve seen the advertisements for the show on TV a number of times and as far as I could tell, it appeared to be a reality show about a bunch of guys with beards who manufacture products having to do with duck hunting. It didn’t sound particularly interesting to me, so I never bothered to watch.Not A Duck Dynasty Fan

Now that this record-breaking season premier has my attention, I’m thinking that it may be time to check this program out. Surely a program that attracts 12 million pairs of eyeballs must have something going for it, right?

A few tidbits I’ve stumbled upon in my travels around the internet suggest that a lot of people find the show downright hilarious. Maybe that’s the key to it all. It’s good comedy?

I have not yet watched a single episode but I plan to in the near future. I used to enjoy watching the reality show that the Osbournes had for a while only because some of the things Ozzy came out with were priceless for their comedic content. At least for me. If Duck Dynasty appeals to me for the same reasons, they will have found themselves a brand-new viewer.

Duck Dynasty sounds like a program that might rub some people the wrong way. The whole show is built around the duck hunting business and apparently the main characters do their share of duck hunting themselves. That’s not something that’s likely to attract viewers who are sympathetic to the cause of an organization like PETA.

In addition, the stars of the show aren’t shy about their Christian faith either. That’s another potential turn-off for a segment of the population. Perhaps this is a program that might be considered “politically incorrect?”

It appears, however, that there are enough people out there who appreciate the humor, the duck hunting, the open display of faith or perhaps all three, to break viewing records.

I guess it’s time for me to see what all the fuss is about.

Do you watch Duck Dynasty and if so, what it is about the program that you like?

Let me begin with the following disclosure: I do not watch Big Brother, but my wife absolutely loves the program and never misses and episode so I have been subjected to bits and pieces of it here and there.

The show has stirred up controversy in the past as a result of various things said or done by contestants, but this time the show may have outdone itself. One of the contestants, a young man named Spencer made some pretty disturbing comments during the show’s “live” feed on Monday regarding child pornography.

As I stated at the beginning, I do not watch this program but due to its apparent popularity, I’ve seen various tidbits about it on the news and heard a little bit about it from my wife. My understanding – and this may not be completely accurate – is that the contestants in the “Big Brother House” are being filmed 24 hours a day which captures just about everything they do with the obvious exceptions of bathroom visits and things of that nature.big-brother-live-cam

The live feed is something that allows fans of the show to connect to the various cameras inside the house and observe the goings-on at any time of the day or night. From the little exploring I did concerning this live feed, it appears it is accessible though the CBS website and although I was under the impression it was free, apparently that is not the case.

CBS charges a $9.99 per month fee for fans to access the live feed because I guess they’re just not making enough money from the advertisers who buy commercials on the program and the fees they collect from all the pay-TV providers who have to pay CBS to rebroadcast their programming. There is a “free trial” for the live feed but I’m not clear on the details.

Getting back to the main point of the story, it seems this Spencer person had already earned himself a reputation for making controversial remarks before this latest flash of brilliance he exhibited for the world to enjoy. It has been reported that he previously made remarks that seemed complimentary to Adolph Hitler and used a few choice gay slurs as well.

As a result of these most recent remarks, it appears Spencer may have some reason to be concerned about having contact with law enforcement authorities. It’s well know that crimes involving sexual abuse of children and child pornography are treated very seriously.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Is CBS OK with having someone like that on one of their very popular programs? Will fans call for him to be kicked off the show?

If Spencer was looking for attention, he certainly accomplished his mission. Perhaps the proverbial “15 minutes of fame” – or in this case, a stint as a contestant on a “reality” TV show simply isn’t enough for some people.

It’s a story that’s been widely circulated in the industry.CBS, parent company of veteran web tech website CNET ordered them to nix their plans to honor DISH’s Hopper with Sling whole-home DVR with their “Best of CES” Award during the annual CES Show in Las Vegas.

CBS is tangling with DISH in the courts over the Hopper’s unique “AutoHop” capabilities that allow viewers to automatically skip over commercials while watching recordings of primetime network programming – something many viewers already do the “old fashioned” way by using the fast-forward or skip-ahead buttons.DISH and CBS In Court Battle

Now it seems that CBS is not getting the kind of publicity they want as a result of this issue and it seems to be favoring DISH, perhaps even more so than if they had been given the award in the first place.

The whole situation does not reflect terribly well on CNET either since they could be seen simply as a CBS puppet by some. There’s little doubt that any reputation they may have earned for themselves as an independent editorial voice was dealt a pretty significant blow by CBS’s heavy-handed directive.

It appears that the whole issue came to light in the wake of CNET senior writer Greg Sandoval’s resignation from the CNET staff. Sandoval pulled back the curtain on the whole thing with a post on Twitter where he revealed his lack of faith in CBS’s commitment to editorial independence.

Perhaps the execs at CBS and the other big networks are just out of touch with the way people watch TV these days. Viewers have been skipping commercials since the DVR was introduced in the early 1980’s. I’ve been a die-hard commercial-skipper since that time and whether or not I can press a button a few times and skip commercials or have it done automatically is not going to change the fact that I will continue to skip commercials.

Isn’t there some kind of sensible way for advertisers to reach their audience other than relying on commercials? What about inserting products into the television programs themselves? You know, having one of the show’s stars sipping a Coke or something. This is something I’ve heard talked about in the past but have not seen much of so far. It would look quite natural since people do drink Coke and consume other goods in real life so it certainly wouldn’t be damaging to the storyline.

That is the kind of advertising I could live with quite happily. I would not expect commercials to disappear completely and if they are well-done enough and are entertaining and/or informative, I might actually watch them. At the present time I often feel like my intelligence is being insulted by the commercials being aired today. How many “dumb dad” commercials can viewers take?

This whole commercial-skipping thing is going to take a while to sort out. We all know how long it takes court battles like this to be resolved. I just hope the courts do the right thing and stand up for the consumer’s right to consume the products and services we pay for as we see fit.

As a DISH customer myself, I receive all the usual mailings that other customers receive in the mail. In the latest mailing there was a card that compares DISH with satellite broadcaster DirecTV and cable TV provider Xfinity (also known as Comcast).

The data presented on the card is interesting and appears to show that DISH does indeed have many advantages over DirecTV and Xfinity. The following data is presented on the card:

The 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked the three companies as follows:

Overall Satisfaction: DISH #1, DirecTV #2, Xfinity #4
Fewest Complaints: DISH #1, DirecTV “Not First,” Xfinity “Not First”
Value: DISH #1, DirecTV “Not First,” Xfinity “Not First”
Loyalty: DISH #1, DirecTV “Not First,” Xfinity “Not First”
Call Center Satisfaction: DISH #1, DirecTV “Not First,” Xfinity “Not First”
Website Satisfaction: DISH #1, DirecTV “Not First,” Xfinity “Not First”

The card also lists the following grades from the Better Business Bureau as of 12/5/2012: DISH A-, DirecTV D+, Xfinity B+

The card also presents information on how packages and pricing stack up between the three companies. Comparing DISH’s America’s Top 200 package with DirecTV’s Choice Xtra and Xfinity’s Digital Preferred plans reveals the following:

Channels: DISH 263, DirecTV 234, Xfinity 171
Price: DISH $84.99, DirecTV $68.99, Xfinity $81.99

There is additional data presented on the card which can be viewed below.

It’s interesting to see that Xfinity (Comcast) charges so much more than both DISH and DirecTV for a package that has fewer channels. In my experience, cable has always been more expensive than satellite and it appears that hasn’t changed, at least where Xfinity is concerned.

DISH Network Comparison Chart

Senior writer Greg Sandoval has announced that he is leaving CNET reporting that: “I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.”

It’s easy to see why! After CNET editors had already chosen DISH’s Hopper whole-home HD DVR for it’s “Best in CES” Award, CBS executives decided that the CNET team would not be permitted to go ahead with the award.

Instead, the CNET team was instructed to disqualify the Hopper and issue the following statement: “The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.”

That statement was the one that the CNET team was instructed to use word-for-word despite their desire to explain the situation as they saw fit.

This appears to be a move that has backfired on CBS and the resulting publicity will probably end up benefiting DISH in the long run.

My hat is off to Greg Sandoval for having the courage to stand up for what he believes in and walk away from what was probably a pretty good gig. I suspect he won’t find it too difficult to land another job with an organization that recognizes a journalist with integrity when they see one.

Popular tech website CNET.com had nominated DISH’s Hopper with Sling whole-home HD DVR system as a nominee for their “Best of CES” Award. The award names the best new consumer electronic devices that are introduced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

Apparently, the folks at CNET were overruled when parent company CBS got wind of the Hopper’s nomination. The Hopper was soon disqualified, which was explained by CNET as follows: “The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.”

The litigation in question is a result of CBS being unhappy about the Hopper’s commercial-skipping feature known as AutoHop which allows viewers to automatically skip commercials on some programs that are recorded.bull

What CBS and other broadcasters seem to be overlooking as that television viewers have been skipping commercials since the introduction of the VCR in the early 1980’s. I can tell you that I’ve been skipping commercials since that time on every recorded program I watch.

Although broadcast television programming from the big networks is still currently available free via over-the-air (OTA) television channels, most consumers these days are paying for their TV programming.

Relying on OTA programming severely limits viewing options so most homes are subscribed to cable or satellite TV. A portion of the payments consumers make to cable and satellite companies go to the broadcasters which means they are no longer relying on advertising as their only means of generating revenue.

As a consumer, the fact that I now pay for all of my television programming gives me the right to consume that programming the way I want. I’m no judge or lawyer, but that’s the way I see it. I pay for it, I get to do what I want with it – within reason of course. I certainly don’t advocate redistributing it or violating any other copyright or related laws.

Broadcasters need to haul themselves out of the past and realize that technology is changing the way people watch television. They should concern themselves more with the people that are recording and redistributing their programs on the internet and through other channels if they are so anxious to litigate.

The VCR changed the way people watch TV and those that produce programming were not too happy about that development either. In fact, Universal Studios filed suit against Sony after the company developed their Betamax VCR. Universal lost when the Supreme Court ruled in Sony’s favor.

My hope is that the courts will reach a similar conclusion in the case of commercial-skipping technology. I’ll say it again: I paid for the content so in my view I can consume it the way I choose.

DISH is starting of the new year with another batch of free preview channels for the month of January. As always, some free previews run longer than others so make sure you mark your calendar if you want to catch one of shorter ones like HBO.

January free previews:

Cinemax: January 11 through January 14. Channels 310-314. Some channels are HD.

Epix: January 4 through though January 14. Channels 380-382. Some channels are HD.

HBO: January 11 through January 14. Channels 300-309. Some channels are HD.

ID (Investigation Discovery): January 3 through January 29. Channel 192. HD. (one of my favorites)

NBA TV: January 3 through January 29. Channel 156. HD.

Showtime: January 11 through January 13. Channels 328-333. Some channels are HD

Tennis Channel: January 3 through January 29. Channel 400. HD.

Featured Sports and Events:

WWE Royal Rumble: January 27, 8:00 p.m. ET. Channels 455 and 456 PPV. (The return of The Rock)

TNA: Genesis, January 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Channel 455 and 456 PPV.

Free Showtime Episodes on Facebook

DISH is offering up some free Showtime programming on their Facebook page. For the entire month, you can watch episodes of popular Showtime programs such as Shameless, House of Lies, Californication, Dexter and Homeland.

Check out the DISH Facebook page to watch.

A new article in AdAge reports that DISH is considering a plan to offer advertisers a smarter way to deliver their content to viewing audiences. New technology being employed by DISH allows the company to keep tabs on the most-watched programming in real time.

With real time data on what programs are attracting the most eyeballs, the opportunity for advertisers becomes pretty obvious. Why run your commercial on a channel with only 20,000 viewers when you can fire it out for viewing during the next commercial break on a channel that’s being watched my two million viewers?

Although this sounds like a great opportunity for advertisers, I am hoping this will also result in a better experience for viewers as well. That depends on how advertisers would actually make use of such technology if it is available to them.Watching TV

I’m hoping that advertisers would seize the opportunity to deliver more targeted advertising based on what people are watching. For example, if I’m watching a program about renovating houses I might actually be interested in a Home Depot commercial advertising a sale on power tools.

From where I sit, that’s the biggest challenge advertisers face. Make the advertising interesting to me and make it relevant. Even though I admit to being a serial commercial-skipper, if an advertiser is offering something that interests me, I will probably watch the commercial.

I realize this is not exactly a breakthrough discovery. Making ads interesting and relevant is a challenge that advertisers have been struggling with from the beginning. New technology that allows advertisers to see what people are watching in real time would give them a leg up when it comes to getting their commercials in front of the consumers who would be most interested in them.

Naturally, there are privacy concerns with this kind of technology and although I don’t have any inside knowledge regarding how it works, I’m pretty confident that the data is simply aggregated and presented in a way that does not identify individual users.

Can DISH and the other pay-TV providers punch a few buttons and see what you are watching? I don’t know, but my guess would be that they could. The viewing habits of one household doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity for advertisers or much of anything else that can make a company more money. It’s the aggregated data that tells the story advertisers would probably like to hear.

I’m hoping DISH goes ahead with an idea like this. It may help appease the big networks and advertisers that are unhappy about the Hopper’s AutoHop feature. If they are smart, advertisers will jump on an opportunity like this and I suspect they’ll see better results in return for the advertising dollars they spend.

Yesterday DISH announced the new Hopper with Sling unit, bringing Sling capability to the whole-home DVR system that’s been shaking up the industry since its introduction last year.

Hopper with Sling enables viewers to watch programs from their Hopper DVR on internet-enabled devices such as tablets and smart phones when they are away from home.DISH Hopper and Joey

This second generation Hopper also gives users additional new features such as the ability to move recorded programs to their iPad for viewing even without an internet connection. This is a great solution for people who would like to take their favorite programs with them for viewing while they travel.

Back in the early 1980’s the VCR ushered in the era of “time shifting,” making it possible for TV viewers to watch their favorite programs when they wanted to and to fast-forward through commercials. It changed the way people watched TV.

Fast-forward in time a few decades to a era when the ever-expanding internet is connecting the planet like never before and we now have “place shifting,” which allows people to take their television programs with them wherever they go. In addition, the Hopper allows viewers to automatically skip commercials on most major network shows.

DISH President and CEO Joe Clayton had this to say regarding the new generation of the Hopper: “Last year, Hopper delivered the DISH TV experience to multiple rooms. This year, we top that and deliver it anywhere. With Hopper, the value equation for pay TV becomes radically different. Customers pay only once for their content and can access it anywhere they choose, in the home, or on the go."

Pricing and availability of the new Hopper will be announced later this month.

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