Q. I have been a longtime subscriber to DIRECTV, but I am getting tired of all the stuff that AT&T has done to it. Price increases. Bad service with every (customer service) call overseas now. I’m thinking of getting Dish instead. We need some satellite service where we live in the sticks. What should I know before getting Dish? — Dave, Lusby, Maryland.  

Dave, many DIRECTV subscribers have told me that they are considering dropping their service, or they have recently done so. Dish can be a solid alternative if you make that decision. The nation’s second largest satcaster has justifiably earned a reputation as a TV provider that offers lower prices and dedicated customer service.

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However, before you subscribe to Dish, there are a few things you need to know.

Dish is notorious for fighting with programmers, which often leads to disputes that black out certain channels for an extended period of time. 
AT&T’s DIRECTV has suffered some channel blackouts in the last few years due to programming disputes. But Dish is the king of the fee fight. No pay TV provider gets involved in programming battles more than Dish.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has long said he is willing to allow certain channels to be removed from his service’s lineup if it means paying their owners less money when they return. That is, if they return. Dish has been missing HBO for a year due to a fight over programming fees with the premium channel. And the satcaster has been without the Fox regional sports channels since July 26 due to a separate fee fight. It’s unclear when, or if, HBO and the sports channels will return.

Dish has also been involved in similar blackouts with several other programmers over the last few years, including Univision, Turner and broadcasting companies which own certain local channels. The satcaster ultimately settled those disputes, but Dish viewers were unable to watch the affected channels for a period of time in each case.

So if you subscribe to Dish, the odds are good that you will lose some channels in the coming months, perhaps including one that you watch regularly. The flip side is that Dish usually settles these scraps at some point, and the hardline negotiating stance does help the company keep prices more reasonable than some pay TV providers.

Rain can knock out Dish’s picture, too.
Both cable and satellite TV (and the telco TV) services can also undergo picture interruptions, 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.)

Dave, I 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