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The Verdict: DISH Beats DirecTV

September 30th, 2015

Well, things have changed again and I am now a paying customer of DirecTV, a company that’s now part of the “AT&T family”directv-dish which does absolutely no good for my desire to continue with the service. I have AT&T as my only option for “high speed” internet where I live and I am not thrilled with their service, but that’s a topic for another day I suppose.

My son who works as an installer for DirecTV (technically he works for a contractor but all he works on is DirecTV) moved out some months ago and we decided to switch from DISH to DirecTV, basically because he works for them. That turned out to be a mistake. I admit it’s not the worst mistake I have ever made but after a year of having DirecTV, I wish I never switched from DISH to DirecTV. When my son was living here it was a good deal since we got DirecTV’s top-of-the-line package for free and it’s hard to beat a deal like that.

One good thing that has come out of being a DirecTV customer is that I can now speak with some authority about DirecTV and can share that information here, Hopefully, it will be helpful to those who are trying to decide between DISH and DirecTV.

When my son moved out we ordered DirecTV service and we received a HR24-500 DVR, and that is probably the primary reason I am unhappy with DirecTV. In short, their equipment sucks, but I’ll get back to that in a bit. First I’ll talk about what I like about DirecTV.

So far, DirecTV is costing us about $5 less per month than we were paying for DISH Network. The programming package we now have is similar to the one we had when we were with DISH, but I’d have to say that DirecTV is a little more generous with the channels that are included in the package. There are two or three channels we have as part of our package that were not included on the DISH package we had. This is something that will vary a great deal from customer to customer since not everyone likes the same channels. While I am somewhat happier with the channels I receive with DirecTV, someone else is probably not at all happy. It all depends on what your interests are.

That’s pretty much where the list of what I like about DirecTV comes to an end. And as I pointed out before, the fact that the company is now owned by AT&T makes matters worse. In my experience AT&T does not have a good track record where customer service is concerned and I suspect DirecTV customer service will suffer as a result. Do things for the customer ever get better after one of these mega-mergers take place? I suspect not.

Here’s what I really hate about DirecTV: Their equipment sucks. Sound familiar? I was a DISH customer for about 16 years, so I am very familiar with their equipment, how reliable it was and how it performed, and I can say with no hesitation that it blows DirecTV equipment out of the water. And keep in mind that I am comparing a relatively old DISH DVR (model ViP6222) to what I assume is one of the latest DirecTV DVRs (model HR24-500). Still, my old DISH DVR ran circles around the DirecTV DVR.

Let’s get specific shall we? One of the first thing I have noticed is DirecTV seems a lot more susceptible to bad weather than DISH ever did. Again, I had DISH for 16 years, so I am quite familiar with how various types of weather affect it. In my experience so far, I have to say that DirecTV service is interrupted far more frequently by the weather than DISH ever was. We lose our DirecTV service during rain storms that I am quite certain would not have impacted DISH at all. Losing our DISH service due to weather was quite rare. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing for DirecTV. After this experience, it’s a lot easier to believe those cable TV commercials that claim satellite TV service gets knocked out by bad weather frequently. That was not the case with DISH.

directv-dvrAnother problem I have with DirecTV equipment is that it lags a lot. When I say “lags” what I am referring to is the delay between the time I press a button on the remote control and the time the DVR actually responds. Although there was some lag time with my DISH equipment, it is much longer with DirecTV, and that was also true when my son was living here and the “Genie” DVR was installed. Making matters worse, sometimes the lag goes from being annoying to being ridiculous. For example, just deleting a recording from the DVR will sometimes leave me “hanging” for up to 6 to 7 seconds or even a bit more. This happens randomly, and fortunately it is usually a lot faster, but I can honestly say I never had those kinds of experiences with DISH equipment. In fact, almost anything I do with the DirecTV DVR is subject to a lot of lag time that can be measured in seconds. You just never can rely on it responding in timely fashion no matter what you are trying to do with it.

Here’s something else that happened recently that wasn’t a major issue but further demonstrated that DirecTV equipment is simply inferior. On our HR24-500 DVR there are a number of lighted areas on the front that illuminate when the DVR is turned on. One day a week or so ago I turned it on and found that only one light illuminated and all the others that normally come on were dark. The DVR seemed to function normally so I simply left it for a few days to see if the lights would come back on. Finally, I decided to unplug the DVR for a few minutes and when I powered it back on again the lights were illuminated once again. Not the sign of a well-designed or build piece of equipment.

When all things are considered, I would prefer to be back with DISH Network even if I had to pay a little more a sacrifice a few channels. Losing our DirecTV in bad weather which would not have knocked out the DISH signal and putting up with lag when using the DVR are sufficient to make me wish I had not switched. Unfortunately, I am locked into a two-year contract with DirecTV and will just have to wait it out. When that two years is up, I will be dropping DirecTV unless things change significantly, and I really doubt that is going to happen.

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.

White Lies and Satellite TV

December 18th, 2012

Competition in any industry is a good thing for consumers. It’s expected that businesses that are serving the same customer base will do their best to make their product or service appear to be the best choice.

The television industry is no different. Broadcasters try to come up with the most popular programs in their efforts to attract viewers to their programming. Again, that’s great for consumers because it gives us lots of choice when it comes to television entertainment.

Competition is also pretty intense among the companies that actually provide the broadcaster’s programming to TV viewers. Years ago cable TV was the only game in town. Over-the-air (OTR) TV has been with is longer than any other broadcast method, but if you wanted all those new channels that sprung up when cable TV started to get popular, you had to spring for cable.

For a while cable was the only game in town if you wanted lots of channels. The old C-band satellite dishes became an option at some point but those things were expensive and they were BIG.

When the new smaller dish antennas were introduced and companies like DISH Network and DirecTV came along, it signaled the end of cable TV’s near-exclusive lock on providing television audiences with lots of channels to watch.

When satellite TV became a clear threat to cable’s dominance, it wasn’t surprising to see the cable and satellite industry sniping at each other with advertising that declared the superiority of their service and the inferiority of the competing industry.

As a DISH Network customer since 1998, it’s plain to see that I decided some time ago that satellite TV was the best option for me. I’ve watched with some amusement through the years as the cable industry came up with new reasons to stay away from satellite television.

Since I’ve recently moved, I have had the opportunity to live with two separate DISH Network installations in two separate states. The good news is that my installation here at my new home has been working just as well as the one in my previous home. So much for cable TV claims about all the problems that plague satellite TV customers.Bad weather

Since I first signed up for DISH back in 1998, I’ve seen the same claims from the cable industry about satellite TV over and over again. Most of what the cable industry says about satellite TV is in relation to the weather. I guess it’s the only card they have to play, so it’s the one they stick with.

Have I ever lost my DISH reception due to bad weather? Yes, I have. Sounds like the cable industry is correct regarding the reliability of satellite TV, right? To that I’d have to answer yes and no.

Sure, weather can affect satellite TV reception and even knock it out completely. What the cable industry does not reveal is that the weather has to be pretty extreme to have an affect on satellite television and those events are pretty rare – at least in my experience.

Even when the weather does affect my reception, the interruptions usually last no longer 10 minutes or so. I’ve experienced interruptions that have lasted as long as 30 minutes but those are very rare and have happened no more than five or six times in all the years I’ve been a DISH customer. It’s very possible that reception was knocked out during certain times when I didn’t happen to be watching TV, but I guess it’s pretty evident that I can only speak to the service interruptions I experienced while watching.

I can also speak about the reliability of cable TV since I was a cable TV customer of at least three different cable companies before I got DISH. Sure, cable isn’t really affected by weather at all unless you talk about server weather – the kind that knocks trees onto cable TV lines. Yes, these events are rare as well, but they are much longer-lasting.

It takes time for crews to repair cable lines and I’ve experienced cable outages that lasted for days. When I add up all the time I’ve had my DISH service knocked out and compare it to the time I was without cable, DISH is the clear winner.

As I said at the beginning, it’s natural and expected for competing industries to take shots at each other. However, when they exaggerate (as they often do) it’s important for consumers to understand that.

For me, this one is a no-brainer. A technology that allows TV viewers to skip commercials automatically is definitely worthy of an award of some kind! Apparently there are some industry experts that agree, since DISH’s AutoHop™ technology was named as a CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award Honoree.

For those not familiar with the CES, it is the Consumer Electronics Show and is a huge event in the electronics industry every year. New and cutting-edge products are often unveiled and demonstrated by manufacturers at CES.

AutoHop  technology was selected by the Consumer Electronics Association as a Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Award Honoree. Available only on DISH’s Hopper™ whole home HD DVR, AutoHop gives more control back to viewers by allowing them to skip commercials during playback of most programming that is recorded using the Hopper’s PrimeTime Anytime™ feature.

PrimeTime Anytime capability, allows viewers to record primetime TV programming on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC automatically, enabling them to “set it and forget it” and record some of the most popular shows offered on television.

A viewer can watch a show with the AutoHop option commercial-free beginning on the day after a show has been recorded via PrimeTime Anytime. Up to that point, the Hopper’s standard 30-second "hop forward" feature will work for same-day viewing of recorded programming.

DISH’s AutoHop was selected for the award at the annual CES Unveiled conference in Manhattan where products are evaluated and judged by a panel of independent designers, engineers and members of the media. Products awarded are judged to have demonstrated outstanding design and engineering in cutting-edge consumer electronics.

"The Hopper has been recognized in multiple reviews as the best DVR, and we thank the Consumer Electronics Association for recognizing the receiver’s AutoHop feature as a leading innovation," said Vivek Khemka, vice president of Product Management at DISH. "The entire Hopper system gives customers more choice and control over the TV that they watch. AutoHop is just one of the exciting features we offer on Hopper and is an extension of what consumers already do – skip commercials on shows they record."

On this point I agree 100% with Mr. Khemka. As much as broadcasters might like to force viewers to sit in front of the same old commercials time and time again, some viewers (like myself) are simply not going to watch commercials. Although I have been using the “hop forward” feature of my DISH DVR since I got it, I would find a way to skip commercials even without it! I’d get up and go get a snack, go to the bathroom or perhaps just channel surf until the commercial break was over.

I know I may sound a bit like a broken record where this subject is concerned, but the TV industry has changed a lot in the last few years. Unlike the old days when most of us watched free TV and were limited to a handful of local channels, most TV viewers today are paying a monthly fee for the TV programming they watch. It’s therefore logical to presume that these viewers have the right to consume the programming they pay for the way they want to – in this case, free of commercials.

Despite the complaints from the broadcasters that they will lose revenue when consumers skip commercials, it is important to note that part of the money consumers spend on pay-TV every month goes into the coffers of the broadcasters. That is revenue that they didn’t benefit from in the old days when advertising was probably the only way they made a profit. In light of that, they should be grateful for any revenue they get from advertisers considering that they are getting it from consumers now as well.

There’s a battle currently raging in the television industry. DISH Network made a big splash with the introduction of its Hopper whole-home DVR system. The reviews I have seen for the Hopper have been good and reviewers seem to be impressed with the system’s features.

Even though gadget reviewers and television viewers seem to be impressed with the Hopper’s features and functionality, there are some folks that aren’t too happy with a particular feature that makes skipping commercials easier than ever.

Network TV executives are not pleased that the Hopper allows viewers to automatically skip commercials during replay of certain primetime network television programs.

I’m spoiled. I admit it. I’ve been skipping commercials since the VCR was introduced to the consumer market back in the early 1980’s. It was a lot more tedious in those days since “fast forward” was the only option we had to blast through commercials with the VCR, but it got the job done and it was a lot better than sitting through the same commercials over and over again.vcr video tape

When I joined the rest of the 21st Century and got myself a DVR about six years ago I was thrilled to discover the “skip ahead” button on the remote control! One push of that button skips ahead about 30 seconds or so when one is watching a recorded program. That yellow button is, without a doubt, the most-used button on my remote control.

As one might expect, lawsuits and the threats of lawsuits are coming at DISH from the big networks. Although they seem to have accepted the fact that the advent of the VCR gave TV viewers the right to skip commercials, they are fighting tooth and nail to prevent commercial-skipping from going to the next level.

What the network executives don’t seem to understand is that a commercial-skipper is a commercial-skipper is a commercial-skipper. Maybe that doesn’t read so well, but I think you get the point. Someone like me is going to skip commercials using whatever means I have at my disposal. The genie is out of the bottle and has been since the early 1980’s and there’s no putting it back now.

Like I said before, I am spoiled. If I had to guess, I’d say about 95 percent of the TV programming I watch is recorded. As such, I don’t see many TV commercials. Most of them are boring, many of them are stupid, very few of them are actually well-done and almost all of them are repeated so many times during the airing of one program that it can make a TV viewer want to scream.

I’ll be the first to admit that some people have a higher tolerance for commercials. For example, my wife seems to watch TV in real time and has little or no problem with commercials. Note to TV executives: There’s your target market!

For me a commercial is akin to an assault on my senses. In addition, it’s also a waste of my time. The vast majority of the programs I record are an hour in length. Skipping commercials gets me through one of those programs in about 45 minutes or a little less. If I watch two hour-long programs, that saves me at least 30 minutes. Time well-worth saving in my opinion.

I think I’d be more tolerant of TV commercials if they weren’t pushed to the limit. A few nights ago I was particularly bored. I don’t usually have that problem, but this particular night was an exception and I decided to just go into the living room and sit down in front of the TV and see what my wife was watching. Unfortunately, there are few programs that we both enjoy watching so I knew I was taking a risk.

She happened to be watching America’s Got Talent, a primetime talent competition (like we needed another one of those!) that airs on one of the big networks. Fortunately for me, it is one of the shows she likes to watch that I can actually sit and watch for a while without losing my mind.

Although the show itself is tolerable I was surprised (yeah, actually surprised!) to see how many commercials were aired during that show! They would show a contestant perform their act, show the judges comments and then go to a commercial break. Time and time again they did that. One contestant, then a commercial break. I think there was one instance where they actually showed to contestants and then the commercial break but that definitely was the exception and not the rule.

I wish I had thought to be a bit more scientific about it and actually count the commercials, but I did not. Maybe I will in the future if I can stand it. However, I’m going to take a guess that each commercial break included about eight commercials. There may have actually been more, but again, I did not count them. I was beginning to think that there was as much time spent airing commercials as there was airing the program!

It got to the point where I started watching a program that was recorded on the DVR during the commercial breaks and I was amazed to find out how much of the recorded program I was able to watch!

These days it’s likely that the majority of TV viewers are paying for their viewing privileges by subscribing to cable or satellite TV. That’s something that seems to be lost on the TV executives at the big networks. If I’m paying for a service, I’m going to use it the way I want to use it.

In this case, that means skipping commercials and for commercial-skippers like me, that means I am going to skip commercials whether it is done automatically by my DVR or whether I have to sit there and press a yellow button on my remote control a few times every time a commercial comes on.

DISH’s new whole-home DVR solution, The Hopper, is being very well-received among video enthusiasts and regular television viewers alike. A recent review by Big Picture Big Sound gives the Hopper high marks after the reviewer had the new system installed in her home.

Cutting directly to the chase, the reviewer gave the Hopper 3.5 out of a possible four stars and was clearly impressed with the new DVR that is “…actually making the digital video recorder category exciting again.Thumbs up for the Hopper

Although the team that showed up to install the system for the reviewer did run into some problems and took much longer than expected, the end result left the reviewer sounding quite satisfied with her new installation.

The reviewer does not go into a lot of detail regarding what the installation problem was, but did mention that swapping the equipment out for other units solved the problem. Perhaps the first units that were installed were simply defective.

The most controversial feature of the Hopper system certainly did not go unnoticed by the reviewer. The system’s “Primetime Anytime” with “Auto Hop” feature allows users to record all primetime programming from the big four networks and is capable of automatically skipping commercials during playback of the recordings if the user chooses to do so.

As one might expect, legal battles are getting started over the whole commercial-skipping thing and it’s likely to be some time before there are any decisions made by the courts. History shows us that these things often take time. Sometimes, a lot of time.

When all was said and done, the reviewer summed up her list of turn-ons and turn-offs regarding her experience with the Hopper.

Turn-offs included no built-in Sling adapter, no built-in Wi-Fi, No OTA (over-the-air) support (something that may be coming in the future) and no more access to standard definition channels that are already included as high definition channels.

Turn-ons included the “Auto Hop” commercial-skipping functionality, “Primetime Anytime,” more space for recording programs, the graphical user interface and a better overall user experience.

Not really surprising after such a positive review, but Big Picture Big Sound did declare the Hopper as one of their “The Biggie” award winners.

The Hopper is surely something a lot of TV viewers were waiting for. With revolutionary new features such as the “Auto Hop,” this new whole-home DVR system is setting the bar high and it appears that other pay-TV providers will be playing catch-up in their attempts to compete with the Hopper.

PC Magazine has a long history of reviewing computers and related products as well as other consumer electronics products. They’ve been reviewing DVRs and other video home entertainment products for quite a while and have just recently reviewed DISH’s new Hopper whole-home DVR system.

DISH Network DVRs have earned high scores from PC Magazine reviewers in the past and the new Hopper system is no exception. It was rated “Very Good,” earning 4.5 out of a potential 5 stars. The review also concluded that the Hopper was “one of the best DVRs we’ve ever seen.”

Although I am still using a ViP622 DVR in my home, I do plan to upgrade to the Hopper in the future. I’m one of those people that tends to let the stampede die down a bit before I jump on the bandwagon, so I’m definitely not an “early adopter.”DISH Hopper Whole Home DVR

Once the demand for Hopper systems dies down a bit, I’ll probably order up a Hopper and at least one Joey (which PC Magazine also awarded 4.5 stars) so that my wife and I can finally share the DVR.

Although the notion of the whole-home DVR is nothing new, it appears that DISH has outpaced the competition with their new whole-home DVR solution.

PC Magazine, rated the Hopper system ahead of the TiVo Premier Elite despite the Hopper’s inability to access Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube. Citing the Hopper’s impressive 2 terabyte hard drive which can store up to 500 hours of HD programming or 1000 hours of SD programming, PC Magazine’s review concluded that users probably won’t miss Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube all that much.

Overall, comparing the pros and cons of the Hopper alongside the TiVo Premier Elite, the reviewer concluded that the Hopper is “head and shoulders” above the TiVo system.

PC Magazine reviewers were also impressed with DISH’s Joey units, which are the devices that allow viewers in other rooms to access programming on the Hopper DVR. “If you want satellite TV in your bedroom, garage, or other rooms in your house, the Dish Network Joey is a no-brainer,” according to the Joey review.

I admit that these reviews have me a bit anxious to get my own Hopper system up and running in my home, but I’m pretty serious about my “early adopter” principle and will hold out a bit longer before I look into upgrading my system. For now, I’ll just have to continue sharing the 622 with my wife and make the best of it.

Things could be worse, as in no DVR at all, which I do not even want to think about! I’m thoroughly spoiled by four or so years of DVR use which enable me to watch TV on my schedule and just makes my life a lot simpler. It’s the best thing that’s happened to TV since the invention of the VCR.

DISH’s new Hopper whole-home DVR system now offers users access to the Pandora music service at no extra charge. Pandora, a popular online music streaming service, allows users to create personalized radio stations to stream the music of their choice.

The Hopper now allows users to access Pandora where users can log into their existing Pandora account or create a new account and enable them to search for music and create their personalized radio stations and listen to them through their televisions.

Obviously, this is a development that will benefit owners of home theater systems who enjoy high-quality sound and music when watching TV.Pandora Music Comes to DISH Hopper

Accessing Pandora through The Hopper requires that it be connected to the internet.

"Pandora adds new dimension to the Hopper experience," according to Vivek Khemka, vice president of product management at DISH. "This partnership is another example of how we are working to make Hopper the entertainment platform of choice for America’s homes."

This kind of marriage of television technology with the internet is definitely something that viewers like myself welcome. Although I have watched TV shows and movies on my PC via DISH’s Blockbuster @Home service, I’m still kind of “old school” when it comes to television viewing and I much prefer watching my HD television in my living room from the comfort of my recliner.

For his part, Ian Geller, vice president of Business Development at Pandora, had this to say regarding this new development: "We’re thrilled that DISH is making Pandora available to their customers on a great new platform like the Hopper. More than a third of all radio listening takes place in the home and Pandora delivered through the Hopper allows everyone in the family to easily access and enjoy music they love through their personalized radio stations."

It will be interesting to see what other new agreements DISH may forge with other content providers in the future to expand their options for subscribers.

The highly anticipated release of DISH’s new whole-home DVR system, “The Hopper” has arrived. DISH is now offering subscribers the opportunity to order up their own Hopper system.

This is a DISH product that is definitely on my wish list. I tend to shy away from being an early adopterdish-hopper-logo of any new technology, so I’ll wait a while before I decide to get my hands on a Hopper and its companion unit, The Joey. I’m that way about a lot of things including movies. I’m quite happy to wait a few months for a movie to come out on DVD or become available on PPV before I watch it.

I guess that’s one of the few benefits of getting older – I’ve got a lot more patience regarding things I want.

It’s hard to say how long it will take subscribers to get their hands on a Hopper at this point in time since demand is probably going to be pretty high for a while. I’m sure some folks will be able to get theirs delivered fairly soon but the laws of supply-and-demand will dictate how that goes.

It will be interesting to see the thoughts and comments from the early adopters as the new units hit the market. I ‘m guessing there may be a few folks at DISH that are a little anxious about the first reactions that start trickling in.

Yes, “Thuuz” is kind of a funny name, but it’s not without meaning. It’s derived from the second syllable of the word enthusiast. A fitting name for this app since it targets sports fans who crave the excitement of those special moments when a crucial turnover turns the tide of an NFL game or a game-winning home run secures a play-off spot for a MLB team.

Thuuz is an application for Google TV which can be integrated with DISH Network systems to enable cutting-edge features that take the TV viewing experience to the next level.Thuuz App Screenshot

Thuuz is one of those technologies that may make you scratch your head and wonder how they do that. The app continually scans sporting events that are being aired and uses computer algorithms to detect elevated levels of excitement and then places a notice on the screen to alert the viewer about a key event taking place during a particular sporting event. The application is also capable of recording the key event as it unfolds for later viewing.

Thuuz monitors broadcasts of Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, soccer, cricket and rugby games, along with both pro and college football and basketball games. The Thuuz app uses factors such as parity, pace, novelty, momentum and context in the special algorithms that automatically assign an excitement rating to each event.

"The thrill of watching sports comes from witnessing the drama and suspense as it unfolds," said Warren Packard, CEO and co-founder of Thuuz. "Instead of just catching the news after the fact, DISH subscribers can now watch the most compelling sports action play out, either live or time-shifted. The combination of DISH’s extensive sports programming, Google TV’s interactive platform, and excitement analytics built into the Thuuz app deliver an optimal experience for the sports enthusiast."

Google TV devices with Android 3.1 will work with the Thuuz app. The new Logitech Revue with Google TV is available to DISH Network subscribers for only $99.

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