Why is choosing a cable provider so hard? None of them offers a robust detailing exactly what they provide or how satellite is different from cable so I had to satisfy my OCD by doing all the work myself, and I thought I should share the results. For you that just want a simple answer – I wanted to move from Comcast to DirecTV.
As an added note, I couldn’t get DirecTV because of trees. I tried to work with Comcast to get more competitive pricing and was so frustrated that I canceled my service and am going to go without any solution. At the end of this post is a description of that experience.
In order to simplify the effort, I made some assumptions:
- Signal for satellites is no longer degraded by weather. I spoke with a number of friends with satellites and they said they have not had much of an issue and with Comcast I have had problems, so I decided to exclude this from my decision.
- HD service is comparable across providers. All of the ads are confusing and this is a key competing point, so I assumed they would all keep up with each other. Besides, I am moving from no HD to HD so I won’t notice any variations anyway and will just be excited to have any HD.
- Ignore Special Offers. I ignored special offers because I assume that they will all try to be competitive and I wanted to compare my price after the first year under normal circumstances anyway.
- When evaluating DirecTV and Dish, I assumed technology and features sets would be equal
- Premium Channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) are nice, but did not affect my decision.
There were a couple of requirements that I had:
- Channel Selection – there was a collection of channels that I wanted to have. It should be noted that I am not a sports fan so if providers offer great sports bundles, that is not included in my analysis
- 3 HD TV’s
- 1 HD with DVR
- On Demand – I’ve liked this with Comcast and want to keep that ability
I have a spreadsheet I can send you of all three services (Worpress won’t let me upload a .xls file) – let me know if you want a copy of it. All of the pricing on the first tab is really messy, but the channel break down on the other pages is pretty good. That helps compare your choices side by side regarding content.
It should be noted that Dish annoyed me by providing sparse information on their website about their service and costs so I assumed they were similar to DirecTV. I was also annoyed that they charge extra for local channels so I excluded them out of spite, although I do include an approximation of what their service would cost.
Package Selection – this was tough, I could get by with the Starter package for $57.95/month, but all of the channels I wanted were on the Preferred Package for $74.90/month. I had to go with the $74/month.
HD – $7.95/month/TV and $3.95/month/receiver = $11.90/month/HD TV
HD DVR $15.95/month/HD DVR TV and $3.95/month/receiver = $19.90/month/HD DVR TV
Total: $74.90 + 3*$11.90 + $19.90 = $130.50/month
If I went with the starter package, it would have been $57.95 + 3*$11.90 + $19.90 = $113.55/month
NOTE: I have broadband through Comcast and was informed that if I canceled my cable, my broadband price would increase by $15. In order to take that into account, I adjusted this pricing down so that the effective costs were $115.50 and $98.55 respectively.
DirecTV (the winner)
Package Selection – $57.95
HD – $10/month total, no cost per TV
HD Equipment – $5/month/receiver
HD DVR $7/month total, no cost per TV
HD DVR Equipment: $99 one time deposit
Local Channels: Free (Dish charges for this)
Total: $57.95 + $10 + $7 + 3*$5 = $89.95/month
I am aware that I did not factor in the $99 DVR deposit, but if you add then in over a 2 year contract, it comes out to an added $4.13/month – that’s still about $37 cheaper than Comcast.
With the specials from DirecTV, I was able to get the Choice Package for $29.99/month for 1 year and get the deposit on the DVR and installation costs (about $25) waived. On top of that, they upgraded me to Choice Xtra for free for 1 year and free Showtime and HBO for 3 months. Add to all of that that DirecTV is going to include Tivo in their DVR sometime this year and it was the clear choice. When it was all said and done, my monthly cost for the first year is $61.99.
DirecTV / Satellite FAQ’s
Since I have never subscribed to a satellite service, there were a lot of things I wanted to make sure I understood.
- On Demand – On Demand is only available on the receiver with DVR. Unfortunate, but that’s ok for my needs.
- PPV – Pay per view requires a land line, which I don’t have. You can still get PPV, but you have to call in. With On Demand, I never used PPV with Comcast, so I think this is fine.
- Need a receiver? With Comcast, even without a receiver I could get basic cable, but with DirecTV you would need to split the signal from a receiver and then only be able to see the channel the receiver was set to. Since I am getting a receiver for each TV, that doesn’t matter.
- non-HD TV’s. Not all of my TV’s are HD so I could get a standard receiver, but it turns out they work fine with HD recievers and both receivers cost $5/month, so this is a no brainer.
Package Selection – $52.99
HD – $10/month total, no cost per TV (assumed from DirecTV)
HD Equipment – No idea, assume $5/month/receiver from DirecTV
HD DVR – No idea, assume $7/month total, no cost per TV from DirecTV
HD DVR Equipment: No idea, assume $99 one time deposit from DirecTV
Local Channels: $5.99/month
Total: $52.99 + $10 + $7 + 3*$5 + $5.99 = $90.98/month
This turns out to be slightly more than DirecTV, but the fact that I can’t find information on their website heavily weighs against them. Who knows, their prices may be cheaper than DirecTV and I did see an offer for 3 free HD receivers on their website, but I have no patience for a company that makes it difficult for me to be a customer.
It is worth noting that Dish allows you to bundle premium channels like HBO and Showtime, though. 2 Premium channels for $22/month, 3 for $31, 4 for $40, etc.
Post Script – Comcast Sucks
So I signed up with DirecTV only to find out that there were too many trees to use it. That motivated me to try to get a comperable deal from Comcast which was impossible. What I found is that:
- Comcast employees have little ability to negotiate
- Apparently, none of them can agree on exactly what Comcast’s pricing is
Here is my experience:
Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
- On Twitter, I posted that I was moving from Comcast to DirecTV. @ComcastBill responded (I think his name is actually Bill, leading to an amusing Twitter name) and suggested that I email the details of DirecTV’s offer to email@example.com.
- I emailed the details from this blog post and was contacted by someone (Carmichael Lewis) a day later. They offered me a 6 month deal on the Preferred Package for $44.99 and a reduction of my broadband for 6 months to $19.99 – a savings of $23. I was also told that I get one receiver for free – an ongoing savings of $3.95 per month.
- That would mean that, for 6 months, my equivalent pricing if I stayed with Comcast would be $115.50-$23-$3.95 – ($74.90-$44.99) = $58.64/month, not bad compared to the $61.99 special pricing I would get from DirecTV (although that would last for 12 months). After 6-months, my price would be $115.50-$3.95 = $111.55 compared to $89.95 from DirecTV. Not very good at all.
Residential Field Sales
- Last weekend, I noticed a big Comcast tent at the mall and walked over, where I met Clay Lytle. He said he might be able to come up with a better deal and said he would look at my account and give me a call on Monday.
- No call came so I called him and left a message
- The next day, still no call, so I left a second message
- 2 days later, still nothing. What a waste of time.
firstname.lastname@example.org (part 2)
- In the midst of seeing if Clay might return a call, I received a follow up call from Carmichael. I said that the deal just didn’t make sense, but if she could give me the deal from the Internet for a new customer, I would sign up.
- The deal was digital preferred at $39.99 for months 1-6, $59.99 for months 7-12, and $74.90 after that. Equivalent costs: $76.64, $96.64, and $115.60 – taking into keeping my Comcast broadband (without the 6 months at $19.99) and one free receiver. Not great, but whatever.
- The answer was no. That is only for new customers.
- I told her I would jsut cancel my cable account.
Comcast.com (part I)
- So I went to Comcast.com and called. I told them I wanted to cancel.
- I was offered the same deal Charmichael had offered me except I was told that I would not get one receiver for free and there was no 6-month broadband for $19.99. Equivalent costs: $44.99+3*$11.90 + $19.90=$100.59 for 6 months and then $115.50. Apparently, Charmichael was trying to give me a good deal from Comcast’s point of view.
- I again asked if I could get the web deal for new customers and was told no.
- I said I just wanted to cancel my cable and would go without anything.
Comcast.com (Part II)
- I was transferred to the department that handles disconnects. They offered me the same deal as Comcast.com (part I), but I was told Comcast had done away with equipment rental fee (the $3.95) based on focus groups.
- Equivalent costs: $44.99+3*$11.90 + $19.90 – $3.95*4 =$84.79 for 6 months and then $99.70.
- I was exhausted, but once again asked if I could get the web deal (which, according to her, would have been reduced by the equipment rental fee).
- So I canceled my account. Maybe I should have gone with it, but I was exhausted and a little pissed. I will be relying on Hulu, NetFlix and streaming video.
This will be my shortest post ever. When I first installed VMWare on my MacBook Pro with an 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, it was great! Over time, it sucked to the point that it took me about 15-20 minutes to load Excel. The answer – update RAM from 2 GB to 4 GB. To see if this is your problem, go to Application -> Utilities -> Activity Monitor and watch your system memory when you load something in VMWare.