Q. I read that DIRECTV’s program packages start at $49 a month. That’s not a bad price, but my question is whether the package includes the free Sunday Ticket package that they’ve been giving away. If it does, I’m going to do it. — Cleve, Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Cleve, DIRECTV’s programming packages do start at $49.99 a month. However, before you sign up, let me explain a few things.

The $49.99 plan, which is called Select, features more than 155 channels including some of the top basic cable networks (Fox News, CNN, TNT, TBS). However, to get that price, you must sign up for two years. And the $49.99 price is only good for the first 12 months of the two-year agreement.

In year two, the Select price will rise to at least $85 a month, and likely more than that because DIRECTV traditionally raises its package rates every January.

You might say that you will just cancel after the first 12 months. But if you cancel prior to the end of the two-year agreement, you will be charged a termination fee of $20 a month for every month left in your deal. By example, if you cancel after 12 months, the penalty would be $240 (12 months times $20.)

The other thing you need to know about the Select plan is that it does not include free NFL Sunday Ticket. DIRECTV does not offer the football package for free with the Select package; it will require a separate purchase. (The Sunday Ticket’s plans start at $293 per season.)

To get the Sunday Ticket for free, you will need to sign up for the ‘Choice’ plan or above. (And that requires a two-year agreement, too.) Choice, which includes more than 185 channels, costs $59.99 a month for the first 12 months with months 13-24 costing $115 a month.

If that seems steep, Choice (and other more expensive plans) also includes a free year of HBO, and three free months of Starz, Showtime and Epix.

I know the lure of the Sunday Ticket for free might tempt you. But I strongly recommend against signing two-year TV deals. They severely limit your power as a consumer.

For instance, what if DIRECTV decides to drop your favorite channel during the two-year agreement? You couldn’t switch pay TV services unless you paid the termination fee.

And with pay TV operators looking to cut programming costs, the dropping of channels has become more common in recent years.

Cleve, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann