There are, for all intents and purposes, two satellite television providers in the United States: DirecTV, which is owned by AT&T, and Dish, which is owned by the Dish Network Corporation. My parents have switched satellite television providers twice this month: from DirecTV to Dish to DirecTV again, and we’ve experienced problems with both providers.
A lot of the problems that we’ve had with DirecTV have involved ongoing channel carriage disputes, sometimes referred to as retransmission consent disputes, with two different owners of local, network-affiliated television stations in my area affecting a total of four channels: the CBS, MyNetworkTV, Fox, and CW affiliates for my area. The CBS and MyNetworkTV affiliates in my area are owned by a company called Nexstar Media Group, and the Fox and CW affiliates in my area are owned by a company called GoCom Media of Illinois, but a different company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, operates the station.
DirecTV offered us a “local channel connector”, which involved connecting a broadcast television antenna to a USB port in the primary DirecTV receiver in our house in an attempt to receive some of the local stations subject to the carriage disputes. Even though a few of the stations subject to the carriage disputes either transmit their primary over-the-air signal within 50 miles of where I live or transmit a rebroadcasted signal within 50 miles of where I live, not a single station was received by the local channel connector, whether it be by the professional installer who showed up at my house or my dad’s various attempts to reconnect the local channel connector to the DirecTV receiver. My dad, at one point, connected the antenna via coaxial cable directly to the television set in the master bedroom at my house, and managed to clearly receive a rebroadcaster of a station, an ABC affiliate, that is not currently subject to the DirecTV carriage disputes in my area, over-the-air.
While Dish offers a full slate of local, network-affiliated channels in my area, there are a lot of other problems associated with Dish’s television service. First off, my mom did not order the Hopper 3 receiver, but rather the older-model Hopper receiver. The Hopper is not an easy system to operate, and this was the biggest reason my mother switched back to DirecTV. For example, there were instances where I had to navigate through quite a few menus to find a recorded program on the DVR, and the rewind and fast forward functions don’t really work well if, for example, one is trying to fast forward between golf shots during a recording of a telecast of a golf tournament. The Hopper, while it is a whole-home DVR system, only allows for a maximum of three programs to be watched and/or recorded at any one time, which is not as many as DirecTV’s DVR system allows. Given our household’s sports-heavy TV viewing habits, being only able to record a couple of programs and watch another on the Dish Hopper system was not easy. Had my mother ordered the Hopper 3 receiver, there’s a good chance that my household would still be with Dish, due to its capabilities of being able to record a lot of programs simultaneously that would have been quite addictive.
However, my parents switched back to DirecTV, and here’s where we have encountered problems with Dish…the Dish installer installed the satellite dish on the roof of the house, and, while that wasn’t a problem in and of itself when we had Dish satellite service, when we have to return the LNBF unit that is attached to an arm extending from the satellite dish, my parents don’t own a ladder tall enough to reach the satellite dish and disconnect the LNBF so that it can be returned. It’s a major inconvenience to have to arrange for a ladder to be provided in order to properly return Dish’s equipment to them.
While switching to cable is an option, cable television in this area doesn’t provide as many channels as either of the satellite providers do, and cable television is more expensive around here than either of the satellite television providers.