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Don’t Subscribe to DIRECTV Before Reading This!

Tilted view of satellite dish on white multi-story house --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Q. I cut the cord a year ago and it didn’t work for me. Not enough sports. Weak local channel lineup. Glitchy stream with lots of buffering. Overall, not great, Bob. So I am considering getting a dish with DIRECTV. Is that a good move, in your opinion? — Ben, Chincoteague, Virginia. 

Ben, you are not the only one to express dissatisfaction with cutting the cord. Although your monthly TV bill can be reduced, so can your TV lineup, and your overall viewing experience. Despite the higher cost, cable and satellite still deliver the most live channels, the most local channels, the most sports, and the best technical performance on the market.

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DIRECTV, which has the NFL Sunday Ticket, and more than 200 HD channels, arguably offers more bang for your buck than any other cable and satellite provider. However, before you subscribe to the satellite TV service, there are a few things you really need to know.

1. Rain Can Knock Out the DIRECTV Picture
I’ve previously written here about the occasional technical glitches that occur on live streaming services such as Hulu Live, Sling TV and AT&T TV Now, among others. Particularly during highly-viewing events, such as a season-ending episode, or World Series game, the streaming picture can freeze, buffer or go out entirely.

But both cable and satellite TV (and the telco TV) services can also undergo picture interruptions, largely due to weather. A heavy storm could knock out your area’s cable system, for instance, causing your TV picture and Internet to go out. This doesn’t happen as often as streaming’s technical snafus. But it does happen.

And it is also true that a steady, particularly heavy rain can block the signal from the communications satellite in the sky to your satellite dish, whether it’s from DIRECTV or Dish. Such an outage is usually infrequent and short, but if you live in an area that experiences more rain than normal, you might see more outages. (Note: Snow can also cause outages, particularly if the snow piles up on your dish.)

Also worth noting: The dishes of DIRECTV and Dish also need a clear southern view of the sky to capture the signals. That doesn’t mean there can’t be any trees near your home, but it does mean that you need some clearance where the signal comes in.

If you’re not sure if a satellite dish is a viable option for you, call either DIRECTV or Dish and ask them to come out to do a feasibility test. They can survey the area and determine if you will be able to receive a sufficiently strong signal to get all your channels. They might suggest shaving some tree branches or doing something a little different such as putting the dish on a pole on your roof to elevate it above the trees so it can capture a stronger signal.

2. DIRECTV’s 2-Year Contracts Can Be Costly
When you begin to review DIRECTV’s offers, you’ll notice that the attractive ones (cheaper prices; free NFL Sunday Ticket) require a two-year agreement. That may not seem like a big deal, but DIRECTV has a termination penalty in their two-year agreements that require you to pay $20 a month for every month you do not fulfill. So let’s say you canceled after a year, you would still be obligated for 12 months times 20, which comes to a $240 penalty.

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You may not think you’ll ever cancel. But what if DIRECTV gets into a programming dispute with one of your favorite channels and drops it? (This happens quite often these days.) You might want to cancel DIRECTV and subscribe to a different service that carries it, right? Well, you can, but you’ll be on the hook for that termination penalty.

DIRECTV, like other companies, both in and outside the TV business, use two-year agreements to keep customers from service-hopping. Without them, DIRECTV’s subscribers might switch to another provider every time something bad happens, such as a channel blackout, or an increase to one’s bill. (And DIRECTV will raise your bill at least one time a year. You can bet on it.)

3. AT&T Could Sell DIRECTV
DIRECTV is owned by AT&T, which purchased it roughly four years ago. Since the deal, the satcaster has lost more than two million customers, leading to speculation that AT&T might sell it to another company.

AT&T has denied it’s exploring a sale, but won’t rule it out. So if you subscribe to DIRECTV today, you might see a new owner in the coming months, one that decides to run the satellite service in a completely different way. That could be good or bad depending upon how it’s run. But you need to know that change could be coming.

Ben, hope that helps. Happy viewing!

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Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1713 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

14 Comments on Don’t Subscribe to DIRECTV Before Reading This!

  1. Cindy E Burns // November 5, 2019 at 8:13 pm // Reply

    Don’t do it. There is a 250.00 cancellation fee if you don’t like it and terminate your contract. The picture constantly buffers.direct tv is not part of Pac 12. Every time the weather is rough you loose signal. I cancelled my service and they will not pro rate my bill.They still bill you for service you cancelled thru the end of your billing cycle even though the recievers have been returned. They keep saying I owe them for a receiver I returned and have proof I returned. This company is a joke. Don’t do it. You will regret it. NIGHTMARE .After all this they still keep trying to contact me to get me to come back.

  2. Don’t go with Direct Tv when i had they kept blacken out channels and i kept losing cannels with them so switch to Dishnet Work and I’m really gald that I did because i got alot more for my money now . Dishnet work is alot better

  3. Jimmy Phalen // November 5, 2019 at 9:25 pm // Reply

    *disclaimer* I am employeed by att, formerly as an installer for directv, but currently as a network technician. Most of your article is amazing from an employee’s point of view. You cover alot of the questions that techs get asked that have nothing to do with us and should have been covered by customer service. However… two particular things you said make me want to wash my eyes with acid…. first. Asking to have a feasibility test is literally not a thing. Technicians dont do that. What is actually going to happen is some csr is going to build the account and schedule the install lieing to the customer claiming it’s such a check. When the tech shows up at your home, they are expecting to complete the install. Not to answer questions about billing and channels that they have nothing to do with. Fun fact a tech actually cannot see your programming until after the first receiver is active. Whatever customer service promised you, I hope it’s right but honestly we cant confirm or deny nor enforce any of it. Last fun fact, most likely the tech that shows up to do your ‘feasibility check’ is not going to get paid at all, since 90% of all techs nationwide (it’s a regional thing) get paid by the job and not per hour. So you are literally costing them time and money in them having to contact dispatch to cancel your account. You cant get a work order without an account, and you cant get a tech to your house without a work order. Last thing… a pole on your roof… yea…. impossible… dishes are mounted to one of two basic universal mounts… not at an adjustable height. There are two… an extended and a universal. Some techs may happen to carry specialty mounts that are directv approved.. but dont count on that. A pole gets installed on the ground… AFTER the customer calls 811 and has underground utilities marked. No paint or flags on the ground. No install. That’s a law for anything that involves digging. You will get rescheduled. If the tech chooses to look the other way on the flags that’s on them, but its instant termination if you hit a utility while digging if it wasnt marked properly.

  4. George E Grover // November 6, 2019 at 1:09 am // Reply

    Lmao I’ve been with them for years I’ve had no problems with them!!!

  5. Walton EAMES // November 6, 2019 at 4:54 am // Reply

    Had att products and services for over 45 years in our home never was late and never missed a payment had to call them every month for the last two years because of the bill , so this past month they jumped the prices up on my bill to over three tines higher than normal , ni reason i called five times to resolution dept talk to managers and finally told them take it and shove it your not the only people in town kiss my bigg ass good buy this new ceo of att is a basket casr they have lost over 1.5 million subscribers that want come back going up twice in 6 months and after one year on direct tv they can charge you what they want to read the fine print. Att investors are saying dump direct tv ,we had it at one time and they dont have channels that att uverse has is it that hard to transfer channels to direct tv give me a break att to big for their britches, they are going down and eill go broke if they dont get their head out of the sand ,

  6. Michael Mendoza // November 6, 2019 at 6:35 am // Reply

    I agree with all of the negative comments, yes your signal will go out or freeze with heavy rain, yes they will charge you above what they quote you, I have recorded conversations with them telling me that my bill was going to be a certain price and when my bill comes they charged me a much higher rate, this has happened multiple times. They promise you the world to get the sale or to have you come back and NEVER give you that quoted price. This company is horrible, yes the service is good but as long as you are prepared to pay more you will be ok. I will never give this company any more of my time or money. Stay away, try a streaming service instead

  7. James Tammerine // November 6, 2019 at 9:07 am // Reply

    Dumping DirecTV after 17 years 220 a month is to much to pay for the same thing I have been watching for years regional sports fee is a scam Getting charged for the whole NFL season and only getting 6 games all others are on local TV. Didn’t want to come out and adjust the dish unless I paid them a hundred dollars 17 years and not a loyal customer.

  8. Deb Jackson Deveroux // November 6, 2019 at 11:11 am // Reply

    If when calling customer service l could reach someone here in the USA instead of a heavily accented Indian rep! They just read off their card and can’t understand a damn word you’re saying!

    • That WAS the way it was BEFORE AT&T took over.
      Now the calls go overseas with very limited or NO English.
      This explains almost ALL the problems.
      “IF” AT&T were to care about it’s customers and
      Move ALL Call Centers BACK HOME, most problems would disappear.
      They might also get some customers back.
      BUT with Stevenson’s in charge, DON’T hold your breath.

  9. John Schubert // November 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm // Reply

    I’ve had Directv for over 20 years and other than occasional signal loss due to heavy rain (usually lasts a few minutes) I have had nothing but a positive experience, unlike what I experienced with Comcast previously. I am afraid, however, that this will diminish under the direction of AT&T who is not a company that I have had a positive experience with since their sales group mislead and possibly even lie to get results.

  10. KENNETH W BRUST // November 6, 2019 at 4:05 pm // Reply

    I didn’t renew DirectTV a year and a half ago after 15 years. I moved to DirecTV NOW and still have it. Buffering occurs occasionally but very short. No contract. so if it get pricey I can cancel an switch to another service the same day. They have made several improvements since ATT switched over to ATTNOW. I also have an over air antenna in case I need it.

  11. Don’t. As long as AT&T owns it, stay as far away from DirecTV as you can. Aside from the customer service going down the drain under AT&T, yes, the service will go out every time a cloud passes over—and if you have snow put on your boots and go brush the snow off the dish—the signal will cut out briefly every few minutes, your bill will keep going up while they provide fewer channels, etc. And I’m still with them because when I called to ask them for help lowering my bill from $235/month, they tricked me into a “deal” $40 cheaper—without telling me I was getting into a new two-year contract. AT&T is the world’s worst. Avoid it like the plague.

  12. Do not go with Direct TV not unless it gets out of the hands of ATT. I have had direct tv for 20 years and had great service THEN ATT bought them. By far the worse company I have ever had to deal with. I loose my local channels on a regular basis and have to call and have a signal sent to my receiver. This happens at least twice a week for 8 months…. nobody can figure out the problem, no credit to my bill either… it does not help dealing with the language barrier and there techs and reps read off of prescripted cards… stay as far away from ATT as you can!!

  13. Kevin Fowler // November 7, 2019 at 11:52 am // Reply

    First of all you cord cutters, stop being so cheap when getting a streaming service. Wether it you get cable, DirecTV, At&t TV, or At&t tv now you get what you pay for period. Second when cutting the cord you can’t be cheap on your internet speed either. If you are streaming tv you need at least 300mb per second no matter what anyone tell you. And finally be careful when cutting the cord because alit of cable providers have monthly data caps on how much data you can use through your internet. Sure you can remove the cap but it will cost you an extra $50.00 per month.

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