Q. I read your story about the reasons why you should get DIRECTV. When will you write about all the reasons why you shouldn’t. I can think of a lot as a former DIRECTV subscriber! — Cheryl, Lansing, Michigan.
Cheryl, as you note, I wrote this week about the five reasons why you should subscribe to DIRECTV, the nation’s leading satellite TV service. The reasons included DIRECTV’s exclusive deal to offer the NFL Sunday Ticket and the satcaster’s live 4K programming.
But now let me give you five reasons why you shouldn’t subscribe to DIRECTV.
1. Two-year contract.
DIRECTV requires new customers to sign a two-year agreement. In return, prices are lower the first year, and in some plans, you get the NFL Sunday Ticket and HBO Max for free. However, the two-year requirement is a terrible deal because the prices double in year two and, if you cancel before it expires, you are obligated to pay a $20-a-month termination fee for every month left in the agreement. I believe consumers should retain leverage, not give it away. And when you are bound to a two-year agreement, you lose your flexibility to change TV services if DIRECTV does something you dislike, such as drop a favorite channel.
2. Poor customer service.
DIRECTV was once regarded as offering exemplary customer service. But after the company was purchased by AT&T, it has declined by any measure you choose to use. In just the last few months, hundreds of current and former DIRECTV customers have filled our message boards with angry complaints about how AT&T handles their concerns when they call for help. The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which surveys customer satisfaction in a variety of categories, just this week found that DIRECTV was only fourth in the pay TV category. The satcaster was a frequent number one in this study prior to the AT&T sale.
3. Costs too much.
As noted in point one, DIRECTV’s promo prices are fairly attractive in the first year of that two-year agreement. By example, its Choice package, which includes 185 channels, now costs just $59 a month in year one. However, the price jumps to $115 a month in year two. (Prices double in year two for every DIRECTV plan.) When you include DIRECTV’s regional sports fee, which can be as high as $9.99 a month, and other fine print fees, you could pay $130 or more a month! That’s just too damn much, particularly when you can watch a live streaming service for less than half the price, albeit with fewer channels.
4. AT&T is deemphasizing DIRECTV.
AT&T this year said DIRECTV was no longer its primary video service, choosing instead to promote AT&T TV, its new streaming product. Although DIRECTV still has around 16 million subscribers, the telco believes that satellite TV is a dying industry while streaming is both the present and future. Consequently, AT&T said it would largely market DIRECTV in rural areas where Internet access is limited. This is all bad news for anyone currently subscribing to DIRECTV, or planning to. With AT&T deciding to invest more time and money on AT&T TV, it’s highly unlikely that DIRECTV will get the latest technologies and features.
5. You still have to install a dish.
This ‘con’ on the list of pros and cons has not changed since DIRECTV launched in 1994. And for many Americans, installing a dish on the rooftop, or in the yard, is cumbersome and maybe impossible depending upon where the house or apartment is situated. Even during DIRECTV’s glory days, prior to AT&T, that is, this has prevented the satcaster from becoming even bigger. If you are considering subscribing to DIRECTV, you’ll have to do so with the confidence that installing a dish is no big thing.
Bottom line: I personally can not recommend that anyone subscribe to DIRECTV now. The five reasons stated above includes some deal-breakers for me. However, as I explained in my previous column, the satellite service still offer some benefits that you won’t find elsewhere.
Cheryl, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann