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I had DirecTV a few years ago, but had to switch to cable due to a move where I didn't have view of the southern sky. Here I am 3-4 years later, and I'm still using cable with their ever-increasing prices. So, I'm thinking of switching back to DirecTV now that I can use satellite again and their mpeg-4 hardware and HD lineup have matured considerably.

I was looking at the deals going on right now on DirecTV.com, and if I were to pull the trigger, I'd opt for the Sunday Ticket where you pay $74.99 for the next 4 months, and you get the ton of other programming for free in the interim along with the free HR21 HD/DVR box. I'd also add the $10/month for the HD channels, as well as get the 3 free months of the extra HD pack that is $5.

So, here are my questions, which I'm sure you all have seen plenty of times before. So if you would please, give them a quick answer, or, if you are annoyed by yet another newbie, tell me to use the search button. I also understand that I can just call a customer rep with some of these questions, but you and I know that sometimes you just can't trust what they say even though they work for the company.

1. If I am to switch to DirecTV, it is required that I get the HD/DVR box. I'm looking at the Sunday Ticket offer because the box comes free, unlike the others which only offer a $100 instant rebate (which still isn't a bad idea). If I go with this deal, after the 4 months, will I be able to cancel all the premium channels and drop my plan to a lower tier without any consequences, and just continue with my contract?

2. It seems as if I've read some tidbits about the HR21 box being phased out right now, with newer models on the way? Is this true, and should I wait for the newer boxes if they'll be out sometime very soon...will they be that much better? If it is true, I can only assume that's why they are offering them so cheap or even free, to get rid of them.

3. What exactly is this $69 AM21 add-on box that I've read about? It seems like I've read about it being an OTA tuner, but I'm not 100% on this. I do get all my locals OTA, and would like a way to record these channels since I won't be able to get HD locals through DirecTV. I currently have a tuner built into my TV, but I would need the ability to record on locals, and if I can run OTA through the DirecTV box to record and not have to pay the $5 extra for locals, then that would be awesome.

4. What is the general consensus on DirecTV's HD quality nowadays? I know when I was with them, they offered about 8 HD channels, and everything but HDNet looked like crap because it was compressed so much. Now that I'm used to OTA and my local cable HD package (which only offers about 13 HD channels), I expect the quality to be very good. This could be a deal breaker for me, but it seems like I've read that the HD quality is good now since the change to mpeg-4.

5. Anything else I should know about the current state of DirecTV?

Thanks a lot for any guidance you guys can give.
 

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1) You are not required to get the HD/DVR, though if you get a deal (and have an HDTV) personally I highly recomend the HD-DVR it's come a long way. You can after 4 months downgrade to a lower tier, but will have either an 18 or 24 months commitment depending on what you get with your oder.

2) As far as can be confirmed the HR21 is not being phased out right now, will it be some time down the road, sure, but not right now.

3) The AM21, which I think is $59, is an OTA tuner that integrates with the HR21. Meaning you hook up an antenna to this box and you can see off the air channels on your HR21 guide and record them just like Satalite channels.

4) DirecTV HD Rocks, pure and simple, 10x more HD then they had just about a year ago and more coming tomorrow, will be at about 130 using their logic, but that does include RSN and PPV, still over 75 not including those I think

5) Nothing much but this time of the year is one of their best offers with 4 months premium for free for the cost of Sunday Ticket, plus you get Sunday Ticket!

Also :welcome_s to DBSTalk!
 

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question 1
if you get an HD DVR, you will need HD access at 9.99 for the life of the account. Same for DVR service 5.99
base packages can be changed at any time.
Advanced equipment will have a 2 yr 480$ agreement.
 

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Rakul said:
1)

3) The AM21, which I think is $59, is an OTA tuner that integrates with the HR21. Meaning you hook up an antenna to this box and you can see off the air channels on your HR21 guide and record them just like Satalite channels.
Is it possible to connect and incorporate a DTVpal box for local channels on a hr21 for dvr purposes?

I have seen these units in action and seem to work quite well picking up local digital signals.
 

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Islandguy43 said:
Is it possible to connect and incorporate a DTVpal box for local channels on a hr21 for dvr purposes?

I have seen these units in action and seem to work quite well picking up local digital signals.
No the only way to use OTA locals with an HR21 is an AM21. The AM21 is only 50$ +tax from directv and that includes shipping.
 

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In fact, it's possible to get your AM21 for free if your market is not served by HD locals. Ask politely, and see what happens.
 

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evan_s said:
No the only way to use OTA locals with an HR21 is an AM21. The AM21 is only 50$ +tax from directv and that includes shipping.
If I have no desire to record HD OTA channels, basically I can just hook my OTA to the hdtv and watch those locals in hd or tune them in on the hr21 and record them in sd?
 

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Islandguy43 said:
If I have no desire to record HD OTA channels, basically I can just hook my OTA to the hdtv and watch those locals in hd or tune them in on the hr21 and record them in sd?
I don't think you would be able to tune to them on the HR21 at all, there is no OTA in without the AM21. You could of course just run a second input to the TV itself.
 

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Islandguy43 said:
If I have no desire to record HD OTA channels, basically I can just hook my OTA to the hdtv and watch those locals in hd or tune them in on the hr21 and record them in sd?
If your area gets SD locals from DirecTV, then, yes, you can record them on your HD-DVR without the AM21. And obviously you can connect an antenna directly to your TV and watch whatever it picks up. The AM21 is only for integrating DIGITAL (not necessarily HD, but most digital is HD) OTA signals into the DVR. Starting next February, the only OTA signals will be digital, as analog OTA gets shut off.

SD locals (assuming you get them now) will continue uninterupted on DirecTV, and more DMAs will be getting HD locals as time goes on.
 

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IIP said:
If your area gets SD locals from DirecTV, then, yes, you can record them on your HD-DVR without the AM21. And obviously you can connect an antenna directly to your TV and watch whatever it picks up. The AM21 is only for integrating DIGITAL (not necessarily HD, but most digital is HD) OTA signals into the DVR. Starting next February, the only OTA signals will be digital, as analog OTA gets shut off.

SD locals (assuming you get them now) will continue uninterupted on DirecTV, and more DMAs will be getting HD locals as time goes on.
When I switch over next month, the only locals not being picked up in hd are pbs, cw, rtn, etc., and a few sub channels., and I suppose I can live with them in sd, rather than shell out $50 for a am21. The four majors nbc, cbs, abc and fox are being picked up in hd.
 

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I wanted to piggy-back onto this thread if that is ok, because I am considering switching to DirecTV. I've never ever had satellite TV service before, so a lot of this is pretty confusing to me.

I guess let me first tell you why I’m considering switching to DirecTV. It’s for two reasons, the price and HD quality. I’m currently subscribed to Mediacom cable and they offer me plenty of HD channels for what I watch, but the after the HD access and the DVR, I pay $90 a month without any premium channels. Secondly, I just am not happy with the quality of the HD channels through the cable company. I get audio dropouts and picture distortions all the time. I’ve had them out to my house many many times and there’s nothing to show of it. They say my problem is that there is a Ham radio operator somewhere in the neighborhood messing things up. So I’m hoping DirecTV can improve those situations for me. The money isn’t really the biggest problem, but I don’t want to spend more with DirecTV and not get more of content that I’ll watch. It’s mainly the quality I’m looking for.

First off, let's talk packages. I want all the non-premium HD channels. I don't care about the HBOs, STARZs, etc, but I want to get all the other type channels offered in HD. Can I just get the PLUS HD DVR package to get them all (yes I have to have a DVR as well). I thought this package would do it, but when I look at the HD Channels for the package (according to DirecTV's website) there are some HD channels not listed for the PLUS HD DVR package that are listed for the PREMIER package. An example of this is The Disney Channel shows up as an HD channel for Premier but not in the Plus HD DVR package. I have no idea what Fuel TV is, but it is another one that is in the Premier package and not the Plus HD DVR. These channels are not considered Premium channels, but it looks like I have to order the Premier package with all the premiums to get these channels. That's a bummer. Is there a package I can order to get all the HD channels minus the HBOs, STARZs, etc?


Second question relates sports. I’m kind of interested in getting the NFL Sunday Ticket service, but unless I get Superfan the games will be in SD right? That’s a bummer too. I’ve seen where people have been scoring a free Superfan, so maybe I can do that. Related to this, I am a big Atlanta Braves fan and I’m afraid I’m going to lose their games when I switch. Where I live I get all their games broadcasted on Peachtree TV, Sports South, FSN South, and whenever they come on TBS, ESPN, or FOX. I know I’ll continue to get the TBS, ESPN, and FOX national broadcasts, but will I lose these other more local channels that the games come on?

Third issue for me, local channels (which my area does get them)! I don’t really get the fuss about this, so maybe I’m missing something. I don’t watch my local news, but I do understand in emergency situation the local news is important. Is that why local channels are important? Basically the only time I watch the local channels on cable are for the primetime ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC shows, but I watch A LOT of these type shows. Through DirecTV don’t you get a national feed of these stations (here again I am a satellite TV newb)? Are the added benefit of local stations the local news, the syndicated programming (like afternoon episodes of Seinfeld and stuff), and local commercials? Now once again, let’s talk HD. I’ve noticed news on the web about local channels in HD being rolled out in different locations but not in my area. I don’t see what the importance of this is either? My local stations don’t broadcast the news in HD and the syndicated shows aren’t in HD either. If my area doesn’t get local channels in HD, if I want to watch a something like Lost in HD, I just go to the national ABC HD broadcast supplied by DirecTV to everyone on the HD package right?

This question is a bit more of a general question, but what is the advantage of getting this AM21 for the OTA stuff? Why do I need the OTA stuff if I’m getting locals from DirecTV? Is it just for local HD channels since my area does not receive those? If so, then that goes back to my third question where I wonder why those are that important if I get the national broadcasts of the primetime shows like Lost. Is switching to the OTA broadcast like a backup for when maybe the DirecTV signal is poor (this leads into my next question)?

Last thing (for now!), like I said, I’ve never had DirecTV before or any kind of satellite service, I’ve always had cable. I’m really really nervous about getting poor reception because quality is the main reason I am considering the switch. My father-in-law has DirecTV and he has lots and lots of tall trees and his reception is not good at all. I would not be happy with that one bit, but I have no real big trees or anything like that and neither do my neighbors. Rain scares me too. Basically my big fear is having no TV on days when there is a one time event like a ballgame. TV shows I can always watch online or something if I miss one, but if I were to miss an Auburn football game because of poor reception, I would not be happy. I’m hoping that these fears aren’t warranted. My house faces west with neighbors on the north and south sides. But I don’t think the neighbor to the south (that’s the way that needs to be clear right?) is in the way.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Going about ordering this stuff seems like a big task as well because I hear all these things about people getting stuff for free. Basically I will want a package like I described in question 1 as well as two of those HD DVRs. The model number for those are HR21 right? That’s the one that works with this AM21 device? What’s the best way of ordering DirecTV? Through the website, over the phone, Best Buy, etc? What can of deal could I expect to get with wanting two HD DVRs? Should one be free? I realize I might have to call over and over to get a good CSR, but what could I realistically ask for?

Alright I think those are all my questions and fears right now.
 

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Get the HD DVR. Once you have experienced a DVR you will never go without one again. Look for the thread about saving $240, there is info in that about saving if you are a AAA member and a referral bonus. The savings are on top of the sunday ticket deal and free receivers. Good luck
 

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kroche22 said:
Get the HD DVR. Once you have experienced a DVR you will never go without one again. Look for the thread about saving $240, there is info in that about saving if you are a AAA member and a referral bonus. The savings are on top of the sunday ticket deal and free receivers. Good luck
also, if you do not like football, ask for the alt offer
 

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aukevin said:
I wanted to piggy-back onto this thread if that is ok, because I am considering switching to DirecTV. I've never ever had satellite TV service before, so a lot of this is pretty confusing to me.

I guess let me first tell you why I'm considering switching to DirecTV. It's for two reasons, the price and HD quality. I'm currently subscribed to Mediacom cable and they offer me plenty of HD channels for what I watch, but the after the HD access and the DVR, I pay $90 a month without any premium channels. Secondly, I just am not happy with the quality of the HD channels through the cable company. I get audio dropouts and picture distortions all the time. I've had them out to my house many many times and there's nothing to show of it. They say my problem is that there is a Ham radio operator somewhere in the neighborhood messing things up. So I'm hoping DirecTV can improve those situations for me. The money isn't really the biggest problem, but I don't want to spend more with DirecTV and not get more of content that I'll watch. It's mainly the quality I'm looking for.

First off, let's talk packages. I want all the non-premium HD channels. I don't care about the HBOs, STARZs, etc, but I want to get all the other type channels offered in HD. Can I just get the PLUS HD DVR package to get them all (yes I have to have a DVR as well). I thought this package would do it, but when I look at the HD Channels for the package (according to DirecTV's website) there are some HD channels not listed for the PLUS HD DVR package that are listed for the PREMIER package. An example of this is The Disney Channel shows up as an HD channel for Premier but not in the Plus HD DVR package. I have no idea what Fuel TV is, but it is another one that is in the Premier package and not the Plus HD DVR. These channels are not considered Premium channels, but it looks like I have to order the Premier package with all the premiums to get these channels. That's a bummer. Is there a package I can order to get all the HD channels minus the HBOs, STARZs, etc?
You should get the HD version of any channel that is in the base package. I'm pretty sure the disney channel start with the choice package and comes in hd with that package and any higher. Fuel TV is racing I believe.
Second question relates sports. I'm kind of interested in getting the NFL Sunday Ticket service, but unless I get Superfan the games will be in SD right? That's a bummer too. I've seen where people have been scoring a free Superfan, so maybe I can do that. Related to this, I am a big Atlanta Braves fan and I'm afraid I'm going to lose their games when I switch. Where I live I get all their games broadcasted on Peachtree TV, Sports South, FSN South, and whenever they come on TBS, ESPN, or FOX. I know I'll continue to get the TBS, ESPN, and FOX national broadcasts, but will I lose these other more local channels that the games come on?
You should get your local sports networks like FSN south and Sports south. Not sure about peachtree tv.
Third issue for me, local channels (which my area does get them)! I don't really get the fuss about this, so maybe I'm missing something. I don't watch my local news, but I do understand in emergency situation the local news is important. Is that why local channels are important? Basically the only time I watch the local channels on cable are for the primetime ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC shows, but I watch A LOT of these type shows. Through DirecTV don't you get a national feed of these stations (here again I am a satellite TV newb)? Are the added benefit of local stations the local news, the syndicated programming (like afternoon episodes of Seinfeld and stuff), and local commercials? Now once again, let's talk HD. I've noticed news on the web about local channels in HD being rolled out in different locations but not in my area. I don't see what the importance of this is either? My local stations don't broadcast the news in HD and the syndicated shows aren't in HD either. If my area doesn't get local channels in HD, if I want to watch a something like Lost in HD, I just go to the national ABC HD broadcast supplied by DirecTV to everyone on the HD package right?
FCC regulations prevent Sat companies from just picking up one copy of the major networks and providing it to all their customers so there is no National version of ABC so they obviously ARE NOT included in your package. You can get a distant feed (ny or la) in some situations, like your market doesn't have a local ABC, or if you can get a waiver from your local station because it's not possible to get them OTA but they are exceptions not the rule. Your ABC, NBC, CBS etc included in the package are your local versions if they exist. If directv doesn't provide your locals you would still need a waiver to get the distants. If DirecTV doesn't have your locals in hd the only way to watch something like LOST in hd would be picking up your locals with an over the air antenna.
This question is a bit more of a general question, but what is the advantage of getting this AM21 for the OTA stuff? Why do I need the OTA stuff if I'm getting locals from DirecTV? Is it just for local HD channels since my area does not receive those? If so, then that goes back to my third question where I wonder why those are that important if I get the national broadcasts of the primetime shows like Lost. Is switching to the OTA broadcast like a backup for when maybe the DirecTV signal is poor (this leads into my next question)?
Depends on your market. If you get HD locals via directv most people don't care but it still does provide access to PBS (not hd via DirecTV in most markets yet) and sub-channels like the 24 hour weather channels. It does also function as a back up for rain fade or other sat issues and some people see better quality on the OTA broadcasts. If DirecTV doesn't have HD locals in your area it will be the only way for you to get those channels in HD.
Last thing (for now!), like I said, I've never had DirecTV before or any kind of satellite service, I've always had cable. I'm really really nervous about getting poor reception because quality is the main reason I am considering the switch. My father-in-law has DirecTV and he has lots and lots of tall trees and his reception is not good at all. I would not be happy with that one bit, but I have no real big trees or anything like that and neither do my neighbors. Rain scares me too. Basically my big fear is having no TV on days when there is a one time event like a ballgame. TV shows I can always watch online or something if I miss one, but if I were to miss an Auburn football game because of poor reception, I would not be happy. I'm hoping that these fears aren't warranted. My house faces west with neighbors on the north and south sides. But I don't think the neighbor to the south (that's the way that needs to be clear right?) is in the way.
Trees are really more of a all or nothing type of thing for signal issues. Either they are blocking the signal or they aren't. If they are in the small area where they are blocking some of the signal and occasionally effecting it they will be blocking all of it all of the time soon enough.

Rain fade can happen but making sure your dish is well aligned with strong signals can limit it to being fairly rare and usually very short. Frequent or long outages due to rain is usually because of a poorly aligned dish with a weak signal to start off with.
Oh yeah, one other thing. Going about ordering this stuff seems like a big task as well because I hear all these things about people getting stuff for free. Basically I will want a package like I described in question 1 as well as two of those HD DVRs. The model number for those are HR21 right? That's the one that works with this AM21 device? What's the best way of ordering DirecTV? Through the website, over the phone, Best Buy, etc? What can of deal could I expect to get with wanting two HD DVRs? Should one be free? I realize I might have to call over and over to get a good CSR, but what could I realistically ask for?

Alright I think those are all my questions and fears right now.
The version of the receiver you get isn't going to be something you can control. They will show up with a HD DVR. It could be a hr20 or a HR21 or even a newer model that has just been released. The HR21 would require a AM21 for OTA. Basically the more free stuff you are trying to push for the more likely you are to have to try calling back several times.
 

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evan_s said:
The HR21 would require a AM21 for OTA.
I bought an indoor antenna, plugged it into the DVR's ANT IN, went thru the setup menu, and I get my locals in HD on the program guide. Is this something new? Never heard of an AM21.
:)
 

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Ira Lacher said:
I bought an indoor antenna, plugged it into the DVR's ANT IN, went thru the setup menu, and I get my locals in HD on the program guide. Is this something new? Never heard of an AM21.
:)
Then you have an HR20 not a HR21. A HR21 wouldn't have any where to hook up the antenna to.
 

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aukevin said:
I wanted to piggy-back onto this thread if that is ok, because I am considering switching to DirecTV. I've never ever had satellite TV service before, so a lot of this is pretty confusing to me.

I guess let me first tell you why I'm considering switching to DirecTV. It's for two reasons, the price and HD quality. I'm currently subscribed to Mediacom cable and they offer me plenty of HD channels for what I watch, but the after the HD access and the DVR, I pay $90 a month without any premium channels.
As long as this is $90 for only TV service (i.e. not including bundled Internet), then you will probably save a little with D*. I have 5 receivers, HD service, plus the extra HD package, plus the DVR service, plus all the movie channels and my bill is about $150. $43 of that is for the movie channels plus $20 for the four additional receivers.

Secondly, I just am not happy with the quality of the HD channels through the cable company. I get audio dropouts and picture distortions all the time. I've had them out to my house many many times and there's nothing to show of it. They say my problem is that there is a Ham radio operator somewhere in the neighborhood messing things up.
LOL! I love it when cable blames their poor signal quality on "ham radio operators"! That's baloney! It's more likely they have outdated equipment and crappy wiring in their street-side boxes that are letting interference from every microwave oven and Casio wristwatch in a 10-mile radius leak into their already poor signal!

So I'm hoping DirecTV can improve those situations for me. The money isn't really the biggest problem, but I don't want to spend more with DirecTV and not get more of content that I'll watch. It's mainly the quality I'm looking for.
I think you are on the right track then.

First off, let's talk packages. I want all the non-premium HD channels. I don't care about the HBOs, STARZs, etc, but I want to get all the other type channels offered in HD. Can I just get the PLUS HD DVR package to get them all (yes I have to have a DVR as well). I thought this package would do it, but when I look at the HD Channels for the package (according to DirecTV's website) there are some HD channels not listed for the PLUS HD DVR package that are listed for the PREMIER package. An example of this is The Disney Channel shows up as an HD channel for Premier but not in the Plus HD DVR package. I have no idea what Fuel TV is, but it is another one that is in the Premier package and not the Plus HD DVR. These channels are not considered Premium channels, but it looks like I have to order the Premier package with all the premiums to get these channels. That's a bummer. Is there a package I can order to get all the HD channels minus the HBOs, STARZs, etc?
Basically, if you add HD service, then you will get any channel offered in HD that is in your programming package. Since Disney is part of the basic "Choice" package that everyone gets, adding HD service you will get Disney HD - you won't need "Premier" for that. "Premier" basically adds all the movie channels and all the sports channels (except for the extra-cost subscriptions like MLB Extra Innings and NFL Sunday Ticket, Center Ice, NASCAR Hotpass, etc.)

Second question relates sports. I'm kind of interested in getting the NFL Sunday Ticket service, but unless I get Superfan the games will be in SD right? That's a bummer too. I've seen where people have been scoring a free Superfan, so maybe I can do that. Related to this, I am a big Atlanta Braves fan and I'm afraid I'm going to lose their games when I switch. Where I live I get all their games broadcasted on Peachtree TV, Sports South, FSN South, and whenever they come on TBS, ESPN, or FOX. I know I'll continue to get the TBS, ESPN, and FOX national broadcasts, but will I lose these other more local channels that the games come on?
You may be able to "negotiate" the Superfan package price. I think many people are getting it for half price. As for the Braves games, everyone gets their local "FSN" channel. Being in Alabama, you will get SportSouth and FSN South in the basic "Choice" package. D* does not carry Peachtree. Addiotnal out-of-area FSN channels are available as add-on packages or in "Premier".

Third issue for me, local channels (which my area does get them)! I don't really get the fuss about this, so maybe I'm missing something. I don't watch my local news, but I do understand in emergency situation the local news is important. Is that why local channels are important? Basically the only time I watch the local channels on cable are for the primetime ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC shows, but I watch A LOT of these type shows. Through DirecTV don't you get a national feed of these stations (here again I am a satellite TV newb)? Are the added benefit of local stations the local news, the syndicated programming (like afternoon episodes of Seinfeld and stuff), and local commercials?
You will *not* be able to get "national" feeds of the networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX). The reason is that your local stations get their revenue from local companies who pay for advertisement time. If you were able to get the same network shows from another market, you would be missing those local ads and those local advertisers who might not be as inclined to spend with the local stations if people could watch "Lost" without seeing their commercials. Therefore, the FCC allows local broadcasters to prevent D* (or any other service) from delivering out of market broadcast networks. Basically, you will get your locals, and if you have HD, and D* carries their HD broadcasts, you get that, too. Otherwise, you use an OTA antenna (or cable).

Now once again, let's talk HD. I've noticed news on the web about local channels in HD being rolled out in different locations but not in my area. I don't see what the importance of this is either? My local stations don't broadcast the news in HD and the syndicated shows aren't in HD either. If my area doesn't get local channels in HD, if I want to watch a something like Lost in HD, I just go to the national ABC HD broadcast supplied by DirecTV to everyone on the HD package right?
No. No matter what, you will *not* get "national" network feeds for NBC, CBS, ABC or FOX. Well, actually, there is a procedure where you can try to get waivers from each of the local broadcasters to get a "national" feed, but that nearly never happens if you can get them on an antenna. Don't worry, your local channels will likely be broadcasting in HD by the end of the year and if D* carries the SD version, they will probably carry the HD version, too.

This question is a bit more of a general question, but what is the advantage of getting this AM21 for the OTA stuff? Why do I need the OTA stuff if I'm getting locals from DirecTV? Is it just for local HD channels since my area does not receive those? If so, then that goes back to my third question where I wonder why those are that important if I get the national broadcasts of the primetime shows like Lost. Is switching to the OTA broadcast like a backup for when maybe the DirecTV signal is poor (this leads into my next question)?
If D* did not carry your locals, you might want OTA. Also, with digital TV (not necessarily HDTV) the locals may start broadcasting alternate signals. For example, NBC-13 here in Birmingham has DTV channel 13-1 that is their HDTV feed of normal NBC programming. 13-2 is a weather channel. D* carries the 13-1 HDTV channel, but not 13-2. Also, PBS-10 here has 3 different DTV channels, but D* only carries a single SD channel. So, if I want those extra channels, I have to use OTA, which I do, However, I do not have the OTA antenna connected to my HR2x's. I have it connected directly to my HDTV's ATSC tuner input. I can watch, but I cannot record OTA. So, if you want to record OTA, you'll need an AM21. Otherwise, you just need a TV with an ATSC tuner (as most late-model HDTV's do).

Last thing (for now!), like I said, I've never had DirecTV before or any kind of satellite service, I've always had cable. I'm really really nervous about getting poor reception because quality is the main reason I am considering the switch. My father-in-law has DirecTV and he has lots and lots of tall trees and his reception is not good at all. I would not be happy with that one bit, but I have no real big trees or anything like that and neither do my neighbors. Rain scares me too. Basically my big fear is having no TV on days when there is a one time event like a ballgame. TV shows I can always watch online or something if I miss one, but if I were to miss an Auburn football game because of poor reception, I would not be happy. I'm hoping that these fears aren't warranted. My house faces west with neighbors on the north and south sides. But I don't think the neighbor to the south (that's the way that needs to be clear right?) is in the way.
It's south-southwest. Unless your neighbor's house is three stories taller than yours, it likely won't be an issue. Here, most of our storms come from the west. But in a diagonal front line from south-west to north-east. This means that the D* dish is having to look "parallel" through the storm, which is the worst possible scenario. The longest rain-fade I've had has been about 10 minutes, but it's almost never more than 2 or 3 minutes. It's got to be a pretty strong storm, too.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Going about ordering this stuff seems like a big task as well because I hear all these things about people getting stuff for free. Basically I will want a package like I described in question 1 as well as two of those HD DVRs. The model number for those are HR21 right? That's the one that works with this AM21 device? What's the best way of ordering DirecTV? Through the website, over the phone, Best Buy, etc? What can of deal could I expect to get with wanting two HD DVRs? Should one be free? I realize I might have to call over and over to get a good CSR, but what could I realistically ask for?

Alright I think those are all my questions and fears right now.
I'd call to order. Be nice and you might get all equipment for free. Start asking about the basic packages, and then "negotiate" adding a bigger package or Sunday Ticket in exchange for another receiver. That tends to work better than "If you want my business then give me all this stuff". Of you do want an AM21 for OTA, you might not get that for free up-front. In fact, I don't believe they can even order an AM21 for you until you have installed and activated and HR21. Maybe the sales rep can promise a rebate on it if you ask. Again, bargain "up" from the minimum packages.
 
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