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Would You Ever Become a Cord-Cutter?

Q. I know you have said many times that you don’t think there are that many people cutting the cord. But would you ever consider cutting the cord? What would it take for you to join our team, the cord-cutting team? — George, Buffalo.

George, what I’ve written (ad nauseam) is that cord-cutting has been hyped by misinformed journalists and financial analysts with self-interest.

There has been some people who have dropped their pay TV service, but the number is so small that it has had relatively little impact on pay TV operators. Look at the stats. Roughly 100 million homes still subscribe to a cable, satellite or telco TV service. While their sub numbers have fallen slightly in the last few years, the most recent financial quarters show an overall gain, particularly by the larger operators.

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If cord-cutting was a significant trend, the pay TV providers would be losing subscribers every quarter — and losing millions and millions of them. And that’s just not happening.

Now to your question….

Probably not.

I subscribe to DIRECTV and my family (wife, myself and 5-year-old daughter) watch a lot of television, both live and on-demand. Of course, we could manage just fine if we dropped DIRECTV, but our daily life would not be as convenient and entertaining. I would miss the live sports channels, and basic cable channels that are serving up some of the best TV shows we’ve seen in years. My wife would miss the home improvement channels and the broadcast networks (particularly CBS) and my daughter goes nuts for every animated hero on the screen.

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Now, that said, if I were single, I might consider cutting the cord if some Net TV service such as Sling TV or Play Station Vue added MASN, the regional sports channel that airs the games of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. As a huge Nationals fan, MASN is a must for me. (My daughter is becoming a fan, too.).

But even if MASN was available online, I still don’t think I would drop pay TV. There are just too many good shows on that I want to watch live, or the next day or two via DVR. (I am also not a fan of the sub-par quality of live streaming; too many technical glitches and picture break-ups for my taste.)

Yes,  I’m a TV junkie, but I suspect I’m not alone in this country, which is why cord-cutting has not taken off like some believe.

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Will You Subscribe to DIRECTV’s Live 4K Channel?

Q. I read that you are going to buy a 4K TV, your first one, I believe. So, are you going to subscribe to and watch DIRECTV’s new live 4K channel? — Cindy, Los Angeles.

Cindy, you’re right. I recently wrote that I plan to buy Vizio’s P-Series 65-inch 4K TV when it’s available in stores, or online. And, yes, it will be my first 4K set so I’m very curious to see how it looks on a daily basis.

But to answer your question…

Absolutely not!

To subscribe to DIRECTV’s live 4K channel (and its two non-live 4K channels), you first must upgrade to the company’s HR54 HD DVR, which normally requires a two-year contract with sizable termination penalties.

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Then, once you get the box, you’ll need to connect it to a 4K Genie Mini  (unless you have a DIRECTV-ready TV, which are far and few between on the shelves these days.). The complications involved in installing a Genie system means the company has to send out a professional and that’s another $50 fee (or more.).

See Samsung’s 65-inch 4K TV. 2016 Model.

And it gets worse. For the privilege of watching Phil Mickelson drive a tiny sphere or Mike Trout dive for a line drive in four times the resolution, the DIRECTV 4K TV owner must subscribe to one of the satcaster’s two most expensive programming packages, Ultimate or Premier. For the current DIRECTV customer, the Ultimate package starts at $91.99 a month while the Premier comes in at a hefty $144.99 a month.

Can you believe that? What an outrage!

See Sony’s 55-inch 4K TV. Under $1,000!

There’s no technical reason for having to subscribe to Ultimate or Premier. You could watch the 4K channel just fine with a different programming package that costs scores of dollars less per month. But DIRECTV has decided that the 4K owner is so hungry for more programming, he or she will gladly be gouged for the cause.

DIRECTV and AT&T executives should be ashamed of themselves.

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Can I Restore a Deleted Show On Comcast?

Q. I recorded last week’s episode of The Americans on my Comcast X1 set-top, but I accidentally deleted it before I could watch it. Is there any way to bring the show back on my set-top? I really want to watch it. — Carl, Boston, Massachusetts.

Carl, there are two ways to watch last week’s The Americans, the spy drama which airs on FX. First, you can go to the FX Now app on your mobile device or Smart TV set-top, type in your Comcast user name and password, and watch the show from there.

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However, for future reference, there’s also a way to restore any deleted show on your Comcast X1 set-top. Here’s how, according to Comcast’s web site.

1. Pick up your remote and click the Xfinity button.

2. Then, use the Arrow button on your remote to scroll down to the Saved header.

3. After clicking Saved, use the Arrow button to highlight Recordings and then Recently Deleted.

4. From there, you click on the show you want to restore with the OK button.

5. Finally, select Recover and press OK again to restore the show.

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Comcast says recently deleted shows will stay on the X1 set-top until the storage limit is reached, or if you go into that section and permanently delete a show.

Happy Viewing!

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Do You Know Of Any Sweet TV Deals?

Q. I know you are always looking at new TVs and checking out the prices. Have you come across any sweet deals on big-screen sets lately? — Colin, Nashville, Tenn.

Colin, ask and you will receive. Amazon today is selling the LG 55-inch OLED TV (model EG9100) for just $1,651.

Okay, I know. That’s $1,651 for a 55-inch TV. How can that be a ‘sweet’ deal?

Update:  On June 14, Amazon started selling the LG set for $1,499!

See the LG 55-inch OLED TV — Lowest Price Ever!

Well, you have to appreciate two things.

1. LG introduced the 55-inch OLED TV in 2014 at a whopping price of $14,999. The set was priced so high because at the time it was extremely difficult to manufacture the ultra-thin OLED set. The panels were so thin (just 0.17 inches thick) that LG could only make so many of them so it had to keep prices high and therefore demand low.

Since then, LG has streamlined the OLED production process, which has allowed it to manufacture more sets. Still, there are fewer OLED models on the market, which has kept prices higher than comparable 55-inch TVs.

See the LG 55-inch OLED TV — Lowest Price Ever!

2. The OLED TV arguably offers the best picture on the market. The set combines some of the best features of Plasma and LED sets, displaying deep blacks and high contrast levels. The result is that the OLED TV’s eye-popping picture and sleek style is a real dazzler. I have never met a display expert yet who hasn’t gushed over an OLED TV’s picture, whether it’s a 4K or HD version.

So, Colin, $1,651 is a small price to pay for what may be the best TV we’ve ever seen.

See the LG 55-inch OLED TV — Lowest Price Ever!

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Will Porn Help Drive Virtual Reality Sales?

Q. TV Answer Man, The Atlantic Magazine just published an article saying that porn will drive the sales of new technology. Don’t you think it will drive sales of Virtual Reality headsets and apps? — Frank, Cleveland, Ohio.

No.

Atlantic Magazine isn’t the only publication that has suggested that pornography is the key to making a new technology a huge success. The publications are surmising that the power of porn is so enormous, so hugemongous, if you will, that people will run to their local Best Buy, hand over their credit card and ask questions later.

Dear God, how dumb.

See Samsung’s Virtual Reality Gear.

Ever since adult movies helped drive sales of the VCR in the early 1980s, journalists, particularly the many lemmings who call themselves tech journalists, have written stories saying that adult fare will help drive whatever new TV-based technology has just been introduced.

The journalists seem to ignore that the conditions surrounding the VCR’s introduction in the 1970s bares no resemblance to what was going on when future TV-based products were introduced.

See Samsung’s 55-inch 4K TV.

Think about it. It was relatively easy for adult fans to buy a VCR in the 1980s — the price had fallen to around $300 — and there was great motivation: it was the only way to watch porn in the comfort of your own home. (There was no Internet then, as you may recall.) Consequently, fans of the flirty and frisky film were happy to plunk down their hard earned dollars on a VCR.

So it was a one-time phenomenon. But that hasn’t stopped the media from going back to the well to make the obligatory comparison every time a new product comes out.

See Sony’s 55-inch 4K TV With HDR.

A few years ago, there was a spate of stories suggesting that porn would persuade people to buy Blu-ray players, and 3-D TVs.

But it never happened. Blu-ray player sales rose with the launch of traditional Blu-ray movies — and players that offered streaming services such as Netflix. And 3D TVs? Well, they wound up as a big bust, if you will forgive the pun.

See LG 55-inch 4K TV.

Now, in the case of Virtual Reality, there may be a few people who buy the goggles for a few extra giggles watching porn. But history shows that the number will be small. There’s so much porn in so many formats, it simply will not be a factor in VR.

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Why Did DIRECTV Blackout My 4K Baseball Game?

Q.  I waited anxiously all week to watch the Dodgers/Mets game Friday (May 27) on DIRECTV’s new live 4K channel, channel 106. When it came time for the game to start, I kept getting a message that said “no signal.” I called DIRECTV and finally got a rep on the phone, who told me the game was blacked out. I explained that the message I usually get in those cases is “This game is blacked out in your area.” I was being told I had no signal. I then pushed her on why they would offer a game on their national live 4K channel if it was only available in a few markets, and of course she had no answer. My question, Mr. Answer Man, why was the game blacked out? — David, Fairfax, Virginia. 

David, I understand your frustration and you’re not the only person who’s complaining that DIIRECTV’s 4K  broadcasts of Major League Baseball games are being blacked out. I’ve received a handful of e-mails from readers who say they have run into blackouts as well.

Before I answer your question, though, a little background on DIRECTV and its 4K live channel.

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The satcaster in April launched three 4K channels, including one (channel 106) that airs live events in the new picture format. Shortly after the launch, DIRECTV announced that it would air several Major League Baseball games in 4k this season, all produced by the MLB Network.

The game you note in your question was between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers and it was played on May 27. By the blackout rules of Major League Baseball, only the Los Angeles and New York markets should have been blacked out from seeing the game — in 4K, or on the regular MLB Network channel.

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And guess what? The game was blacked out only in those two markets, and certainly not in yours, the Washington, D.C. area, according to Lorraine Fisher, a spokeswoman for the MLB Network.

“I looked into this…we did not have any record of blackout issues during (the Mets-Dodgers) game,” Fisher told me.

See Amazon’s 4K TV Store.

Based on your question, I believe that you had a connection issue that caused your 4K TV to display that you could not receive a signal on channel 106. Then, when you called DIRECTV’s customer service team, they incorrectly told you the game was blacked out in your area instead of trying to solve your real problem, the connection issue.

My educated guess is that other viewers who have complained of 4K MLB blackouts have experienced similar connection issues.

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What could be the connection problem? That I don’t know, but I would suggest that if you have trouble again getting a signal on channel 106, call DIRECTV and ask them to come out to take a look at your set-up.

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Where’s That Vizio 4K TV With HDR?

Q. I saw that you wrote a story saying you were going to buy a new Vizio 65-inch 4K TV that has HDR, but I can’t find it anywhere. Where can I buy it? — Tom, Baltimore, Maryland.

Tom, you’re right. I wrote last month that I was going to buy the new Vizio P-Series 65-inch 4K TV. The set includes the HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature that promises to delivers more vivid and realistic colors. While HDR is available in many 4K models, the Vizio P-Series offers the most attractive price with the 65-inch set going for $1,999.

See Sony’s  65-inch 4K TV with HDR!

Respected display experts from CNET, Verge and Consumer Reports have all published glowing reviews of the Vizio 65-inch set, which is model P65-C1.

See Sony’s 55-inch 4K TV with HDR!

However, I have not purchased the Vizio TV yet because it’s not available anywhere, or so it seems. Amazon isn’t selling it. Best Buy’s web site says it won’t be available in their stores until June 15 at the earliest. Walmart doesn’t have it, either. And so on.

See LG’s 60-inch 4K TV with HDR!

I asked Mike Wood of Noyd Communications, which does public relations for Vizio, for an update on the P-Series and when it will be available.

“They have had trouble keeping them in stock. They’ve sold out at least twice now,” he said.

Wood promised to let me know when the company plans to ship more Vizio P-Series 4K TVs, which come in sizes ranging from 60 inches to 75 inches. I will update this story here when I get more information.

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Sony’s Vue: Can I Change My Home Location If I Move?

Q. I live in Washington, D.C. and I recently subscribed to Sony’s Play Station Vue. But I am planning soon to move to Boston. My question is: Will I continue to get local channels from DC when I move to Boston or can I change my account so I will get my local Boston programming? — Neal, Washington, D.C. 

Neal, that’s a good question. But first, let me explain Sony’s Play Station Vue to our readers who are not familiar with the service.

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Vue is a streaming service that offers both live national cable channels, and local channels, such as network affiliates (in select markets) and regional sports channels. In Washington, D.C., as you know, you can watch Comcast SportsNet Mid Atlantic, which airs games played by the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. The Washington area NBC and Fox affiliates are also available.

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So what happens if you move to Boston? Will you continue to get these DC channels?

Sony says you can change your home address for Vue if you move. The first time you attempt to access your account after you move, you will see an on-screen prompt that will ask you if you want to change your home location. At that point, you can type in your new address and zip code.

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After that, you will begin to see the Boston area local programming, which includes the local CBS affiliate as well as Comcast SportsNet New England, which airs the Boston Celtics games. However, take note, Vue does not have the rights to air NESN, the home of the Boston Red Sox.

Sony says you can only change your home address once. Your account may be blocked if you changed it more than once.

Why?

The company is trying to prevent people from traveling to different locations so they can watch sporting events that are blacked out in their area. For instance, let’s say you lived in Los Angeles, and the MLB Network was airing a game between the Mets and Dodgers. Normally, you would be blacked out in the LA market. But if you took your smart phone or laptop outside the LA market, typed in a non-LA market address, you could conceivably watch the game using Vue.

See Sony’s 48-inch Smart TV!

But under Sony’s rules, if you try to do that more than once, your account could be terminated.

Last note: Sony Vue’s programming plans begin at $29.99 a month. You can learn more about Vue here.

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What Excites You About New TVs?

Q. I know you have been writing about new TV stuff for a long time. Is there anything in particular that excites you now? Something to look forward to? — Daniel, San Diego.

Daniel, you are right. I have covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades and it’s easy to get jaded about some new products. But there are several things that have me excited me now, especially a new TV series from Vizio.

See Sony’s 55-inch 4K TV with HDR

Vizio has just released its P-Series line of 4K TVs for 2016 and they include HDR support. In case you don’t know, HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range, promises to deliver more vivid and realistic colors than non-4K sets, and even the best High-Definition TVs. For the first time since the 4K TV was introduced, more than four years ago, there’s a reason to believe that it will provide a real update over the HDTV.

See Sony’s 65-inch 4K TV with HDR.

The P-Series Vizio 4K TV is exciting for two reasons.

1. The early reviews from display experts such as David Katzmaier of CNET have been glowing. Katzmaier gave the 65-inch edition 4.5 stars out of a possible five and said it delivers “outstanding picture quality that competes well against the highest-end TVs.” Consumer Reports has also praised the Vizio P-Series for both its 4K resolution and its capacity to upscale high-def content so it looks even better than it does on a high-def set.

2. The reviews alone are cause for excitement, but Vizio’s prices for the P-Series are far below what comparable 4K TVs with HDR support cost. For example, the 65-inch P-Series TV costs $1,999 while the 50-inch edition is $999. Samsung sells a similar (and well-reviewed) 65-inch 4K TV with HDR for roughly $3,500.

See Sony’s 75-inch 4K TV with HDR.

So, as you probably guessed, I plan to purchase a Vizio P-Series 4K TV in the near future. (The line was just launched so availability is still somewhat limited.) When I do, I will keep you abreast of my personal experiences here and at our sister web site, TVPredictions.com .

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Will the Dodgers TV Channel Go Bankrupt?

Q. I’ve read your articles on the Sports TV Bubble and find them very interesting. I live in LA. Do you think that SportsNet LA will eventually go bankrupt because it can’t get DIRECTV to carry it? — Sid, Santa Monica, California.

Sid, thank you for the kind words. Yes, I believe we are approaching a Sports TV Bubble that will soon burst.Basically, the sports networks have paid too much for the rights to carry leagues and teams and they can’t offset their expenditures any more because pay TV providers are refusing to pay up.

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That’s why the Yes Network, which carries the Yankees, hasn’t been on Comcast since last October and it’s why SportsNet LA, which carries the Dodgers, is only available in about 40 percent of homes in the Los Angeles market.

As for SportsNet LA, I believe the channel faces financial peril if it can’t get more providers to carry it in the next year or two. Time Warner Cable agreed to pay the Dodgers $8.35 billion over 25 years for the rights to their games. There’s no way it can come close to recouping that investment if the only major providers in the area that carry it are Time Warner Cable and its merger partner, Charter.

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DIRECTV is not carrying it. Dish is not carrying it. AT&T is not carrying it. Cox is not carrying it. And so on. They all say SportsNet LA is asking for too much money, which is not surprising because TWC needs the money to pay the Dodgers.

When Charter takes over TWC in the coming weeks, it might lower the price. But if it lowers it too much, it will take a bath because of those big Dodgers payments. And there’s still no guarantee that all, or any, of the major providers will sign on.

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Bottom line: It does not look good for SportsNet LA unless Charter and TWC come up with some creative approach to entice the providers to carry it. I don’t know what that is, of course, and obviously neither does anyone else. (But I wonder if Charter/TWC will eventually have to try to sell a stake in the channel to AT&T to ensure carriage by both AT&T’s UVerse and DIRECTV.)

Short of some out-of-the-box solution, SportsNet LA may need to declare bankruptcy to stop the payments to the Dodgers. It would be the only way to stop the financial bleeding. If that occurs, it will have a major impact on the team because it couldn’t rely on that handsome annual payment any longer.

But in the long run, the team would adjust and a new TV contract would be created, one which everyone could live with.

The TV Answer Man web site is supported solely from your purchases from Amazon.com. We urge you to buy something now using this link. Every purchase helps. Many thanks.

If you have a question for the TV Answer Man, send it to: swann@tvpredictions.com

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