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 It's more likely they have outdated equipment and crappy wiring in their street-side boxes that are letting interference from every microwave oven and Casio wristwatch in a 10-mile radius leak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.